In the eight days since 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a police officer, all St. Louis County Police have said about the shots that killed him is that there were “more than a few.” Now we know that he was hit at least six times, according to a private autopsy report conducted by Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, at the request of Brown’s family. Dr. Baden tells the New York Times that Brown was shot twice in the head and four times in the right arm. All of the bullets were fired into his front, contradicting some witness testimony. It’s likely that the fatal injury was caused by a bullet that hit the top of Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward at the time, which was probably the last shot that hit him.
Dr. Baden examined the body for four hours on Sunday along with an assistant. (He waived his $10,000 and his travel expenses were paid by a lawyer for Brown’s family.) The private examiners did not have access to witness and police statements, X-rays that show where three bullets were found in the body, or Brown’s clothing. It appeared that the shots were not fired from close range, but Dr. Baden said that finding could change depending on whether there was gunshot residue on the clothing.
The independent autopsy is one of three being conducted in the case. In addition to the autopsy by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner, Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday that the Justice Department will conduct its own examination due to “the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family.”
While Twitter was filled with armchair forensic experts on Sunday night, Dr. Baden stressed that his intent was not to assign blame. “In my capacity as the forensic examiner for the New York State Police, I would say, ‘You’re not supposed to shoot so many times,’” said Dr. Baden, who retired in 2011. “Right now there is too little information to forensically reconstruct the shooting.”
However, he did criticize local officials for failing to share information about Brown’s injuries sooner. “People have been asking: How many times was he shot? This information could have been released on Day 1,” Dr. Baden said after conducting the examination. “They don’t do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that.”