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If Not For Head Wound, Brown Might Have Survived, Concludes Private Autopsy

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

A private autopsy requested by Michael Brown’s family is providing some insight into how the 18-year-old died.

The examination found that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown six times, including twice in the head. It found that a shot to the top of the head was likely the one that proved to be fatal.

The autopsy also showed that the bullets hit Brown from the front. No gunpowder residue was found on Brown's body, which suggested Wilson didn’t shoot him at close range, although his clothes were not examined.

Michael Baden, the former medical examiner for New York, stressed that his autopsy was preliminary. He thought that Brown might have survived the shooting if he had not been shot in the head.

“All of these gunshot wounds were survivable, except for the one in the top of the head that went through the brain,” Baden said.

Baden also said he saw no signs of a struggle between Brown and Wilson. He did say there was abrasion around the right of Brown’s face that likely happened after he fell down on the ground unprotected.

Baden’s autopsy is one of three autopsies being performed. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, said Baden’s autopsy was requested before the federal government announced it was undertaking an examination of Brown’s body. (St. Louis County is also performing one.)

Baden's autopsy results come as dual state and federal investigation continue to look at whether to charge Wilson with any crime.

Crump said Brown’s family wanted to know how many times he was shot and whether he was in pain. 

Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown's family, says the private autopsy was done before the federal government decided to pursue an examination of Brown's body.

“Dr. Baden shared with her in his opinion he did not suffer,” Crump said.

He also said Brown’s family wanted a private autopsy because they “did not want to be left to rely on the autopsy by the St. Louis law enforcement agencies, the same people who they feel are responsible for executing their son in broad in daylight."

Right before the end of the press conference, Ferguson resident Shirley Davis asked why Wilson wasn’t arrested. That came after Daryl Parks, another attorney for Brown's family, said: “We believe given those types of facts, this officer should have been arrested.” 

Baden said his autopsy didn’t provide a definitive evidence of whether Wilson should be charged with anything.

“Who gets arrested, as you know, is a political district attorney decision,” Baden said. “And it’s not a forensic science decision – for good or for bad.”

St. Louis County ProsecutorBob McCulloch told St. Louis Public Radio that he will call a grand jury “within days” to see if Wilson should be charged with any crime. For her part, Davis said McCulloch should take action sooner than later.

“With what’s going on here today, I don’t think it will be that long,” Davis said. “Because fair is fair. And I think the light is shining on the prosecuting attorney. I think that the arrest will be happening soon. I don’t think that they can just set by and act like this didn’t happen. They cannot ignore facts. That’s what I think.”

No comment on Washington Post report

Meanwhile, a spokesman for McCulloch refused to comment on an article from the Washington Post about the county' s autopsy.

The article states that the county's medical examiner determined that Brown was shot in the head and chest multiple times. It also quotes an unnamed source that claimed Brown had marijuana in his system when he was shot and killed. Crump told the Post that he didn’t know anything about the drug being found in Brown’s body. 

When asked if the article was accurate, Ed Magee, a spokesman for McCulloch, said in an e-mail to St. Louis Public Radio that his office "will not comment on any evidence in this case. He also said that "the autopsy report will not be distributed by this office." 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.