The Post-Dispatch has reviewed thousands of pages of grand jury documents released Nov. 24 by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch. McCulloch released the documents after revealing that the grand jury did not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Here is a selection from the documents.
SHOT COULD HAVE COME FROM BACK
During his announcement of the grand jury finding of no true bill, McCulloch sharply criticized the inconsistent eyewitness accounts. He called out one particular claim that Brown was shot in the back as he was running away.
“However once the autopsy findings were released showing that Michael Brown had not sustained any wound to the back of his body, no additional witnesses made such a claim.”
But there was no evidence that Wilson did not fire at Brown’s back and miss. And, in fact, one expert testified one of the wounds could have come while Brown was running away.
The forensic pathologist for the federal government, a doctor based at Dover Air Force Base, testified that one gunshot on Brown’s body could have come from behind. It was the shot to his right forearm that fractured the ulna, one of the long bones in the forearm.
“So if you are asking me could a shot from his backside produce that, I say yes,” the pathologist said. “Because as you are running, if your arm is down like this, that surface, that very surface of your arm is exposed posteriorly. So a bullet coming from behind you could cause that injury.”
Asked if it could have come from the front side, the pathologist said, “Yes, depending on how your arm is.”
TREATMENT OF WILSON’S EVIDENCE
Ferguson police sent Wilson back to the station by himself because they couldn’t spare anyone to accompany him. Wilson told grand jurors that he was “kind of in shock.”
When he arrived, the first thing he did was wash his hands twice.
“And just from everything we have always been taught about blood, you don’t want it on you, you don’t touch it, you don’t come in contact with it,” he said. Wilson said he thought he’d been cut by window glass broken by his first shot. “And so thinking that I was cut with someone else’s blood on me, I had to wash my hands.”
Wilson, on his own, put on a pair of gloves and bagged his own gun, telling jurors that he’d seen blood on the gun and thought there could also be Brown’s fingerprints and sweat.
He took off his uniform shirt and bullet-resistant vest at the station. He also took off his duty, or utility, belt. But he placed that in the trunk of his personal vehicle, and it would be more than a month before investigators got hold of it — only after a Wilson lawyer called a detective and offered it up.
STORY A AND B, ‘BUT B IS DECEASED’
On Nov. 21, a juror was questioning a police detective about how Wilson’s version of events might have skewed the investigation.
“When starting your investigation after you already interviewed Officer Wilson, OK. You heard A of the story, there’s A and B, but B is deceased,” the juror said. “Officer Wilson’s testimony told you his scenario (of) what happened. Of course Mike Brown cannot speak,” the juror clarified.
The detective said the initial phase of the investigation was to “essentially locate witnesses, obtain their statements from them, and it is to gather the evidence at the scene. And then in this particular instance, right, I present it to you, ladies and gentlemen of the grand jury, and you can make the decisions from there. But there is no skewing one side either way, OK.”
A crime scene detective for St. Louis County walked the crime scene and testified that there were no blood drops between Wilson’s car and Brown’s body. The distance between the two was 153 feet, 9 inches, far greater than the 35 feet reported by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar just days after the shooting.
SOME BULLETS NOT RECOVERED
The investigation revealed 12 shots were fired from Wilson’s .40-caliber Sig Sauer semiautomatic pistol. One shot went unfired. Twelve shell casings were recovered. Two were near the SUV and 10 were clustered in the street and grass, east on Canfield about 153 feet from the front of the SUV, around Brown’s body.
Five bullets were recovered in the initial scene investigation: one from Wilson’s SUV, one from the right side of Brown’s back, one from the right side of Brown’s chest, and one from the right side of Brown’s head. The fifth was found in the street. Police suspect another shot hit another building but could not recover a bullet without causing significant damage to the building.
About a month later, a bullet was found lodged in another building.
LEAKS NOT FROM GRAND JURY
On Oct. 22, the Post-Dispatch published a story disclosing details from the report on the autopsy by the St. Louis County medical examiner’s office. When the grand jury met the next day, there was a frank discussion about leaks.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kathi Alizadeh started the day by saying she was confident the information didn’t come from the grand jury. “One of the reasons that I know that is the medical examiner’s report is out there and I’ve looked at what’s ... put out there by the Post-Dispatch and I can tell you it is not the copy that you have. It is the medical examiner’s report, but every medical examiner’s report that we get has a stamp on it. It says not for secondary release. And the report that is out there that was published by the Post-Dispatch does have that stamp on there, but it is not the same stamp that I have, and I know it is not the same stamp that is on your copy.”
‘HE’S A PRIMA DONNA’
The grand jury was trying to decide what to do about Michael Baden’s report, which would provide more detail on the trajectory of the bullets and the position Brown’s body was in when he was shot. Baden had not submitted it and could not get it to the grand jury until noon on Nov. 24. One of the prosecutors asked whether jurors wanted to wait for the written report, do without it or try to do a conference call.
One juror said, “What he said, is a prima donna. How much time he need to do a report, a final report. Every time he says something, he changes his mind, I’m sorry, but to me he’s a prima donna.”
Alizadeh then tried to rein in the discussion, saying it was something jurors should talk about “by yourself and off the record.”
WHAT WAS IN BROWN’S POCKETS?
The investigator for the county medical examiner testified: “We found two lighters, two $5 bills and a small little bag of marijuana, or what appeared to be marijuana. It was a green substance, grass, looks like marijuana to me.”
The police investigative report found: In his right front pocket were two five dollar bills and a notepad, in the left were a black lighter and a red lighter.
WITNESSES UPSET ABOUT POLICE
The anger that boiled over on the streets of Ferguson about mistreatment by police — grand jurors heard it in the courtroom, too. A friend of Brown, who testified that he saw Brown on his knees with his hands in the air, explained his feelings in depth.
“I was even … pulled off of my school bus one time telling me I broke in someone’s house. And when I asked (police), ‘Why would I break in someone’s house when I was at school?’ It is always harassment.
“They pull up on you and just ask you questions. Where you going and just all type of, just harassment like. I should be able to live, I should be able to feel safe where I live.”
MISSING RADIO CALLS
Wilson told the grand jurors that after initially talking to Brown and Dorian Johnson, he realized that they were the suspects discussed in recent radio calls about a stealing, and broadcast: “Frank 21. I’m on Canfield with 2. Send me another car.”
He also told the grand jury that after the struggle in the car, he radioed for help, saying “Shots fired, send me more cars.” After Brown fell, he said he radioed, “Send me a supervisor and every car you got.”
He said that unbeknownst to him, his radio had been switched to another channel, channel 3, and fellow officers were unaware of those calls when he returned to the station.
Investigators were unable to locate those calls in recordings of radio traffic.
A Ferguson police sergeant who is also responsible for communications told jurors Nov. 13 that channel 3 was actually a fire district channel. Officers’ radios, he said, are unable to transmit on that channel, so Wilson’s calls would not have been heard by anyone else.
When describing the struggle in his police SUV, Wilson said that he “felt like a 5-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan.” Wilson, 28, is 6 feet 4 inches and 210 pounds. Michael Brown, 18, was 6 feet 5 inches and 285 pounds, according to one autopsy.
After Wilson fired a shot in the car, he said that Brown stepped back and looked at Wilson. Wilson said, “Brown had the most intense, aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.”
Outside the car, after Wilson chased Brown, Brown stopped.
“So when he stopped, I stopped,” Wilson told the grand jurors. “And then he starts to turn around, I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground. He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me.”
After Wilson fires a series of shots at Brown, he said that Brown flinched, but kept coming.
“At this point, it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way,” Wilson told the jurors.
FIRING IN RESIDENTIAL AREA
Wilson’s field training officer at the Jennings Police Department was asked whether he had taught Wilson when or when not to open fire in a residential area.
The officer answered: “When you decide to use deadly force, it is the threat that you perceive at the time ... at times, you will have to fire in a residential area.”
He also points out that Wilson didn’t pull his gun because of jaywalking.
“Just for jaywalking, would I pull a gun? No,” he testified. “If I stop somebody for jaywalking and it turns into a physical altercation, it is not a jaywalking any more. We’ve gotten beyond that.”
IT ALL HAPPENED SO FAST
Recordings of radio traffic on Aug. 9 and other information show that the encounter between Wilson and Brown lasted less than 90 seconds.
But on Nov. 13, prosecutors were questioning a witness who said she saw the encounter from the time Brown ran away from Wilson’s police SUV.
Asked about one detail, she responded, “It all happened so fast,” prompting a question about how much time elapsed between the first two gunshots and when Brown fell to the ground.
“I want to say 10 minutes, 15 minutes,” she said, later revising her estimate downward to eight.
NOT ‘FORENSICALLY POSSIBLE’
On Oct. 16, jurors were played an Oct. 3 recording of an interview of a close Brown friend being grilled by an FBI special agent, and assistant U.S. attorney and an attorney with the Justice Department.
It was the witness’ second interview with the FBI. In the first, on Aug. 13, the witness had also been met with tough questioning about his claim that Wilson shot Brown at “point-blank range,” as Brown was saying, “Please don’t shoot.”
“We are here today to tell you what you are saying you saw isn’t forensically possible based on the evidence,” said a prosecutor in the second meeting. “And that’s just an example. Virtually everything that you told the FBI on August 13th doesn’t match up with the evidence.”
Later, responding to a similar statement, the witness said, “I’m sorry, I’m telling you what I saw, I seen the man execute my best friend.”
The prosecutor responded, “You don’t have to speak any more, it was voluntary. So we certainly don’t want you to talk to us any more. So we do thank you for coming in, thank you.”
After a lunch break, that witness testified live. He eventually told jurors that the only true thing from his previous statements was that Wilson shot Brown point-blank in the head.
LIES, THEN TRUTH
On Oct. 7, prosecutors also brought in a Canfield Green apartment resident whom they knew had lied about witnessing the shooting.
The witness had told FBI agents on two occasions that she had seen Brown die. But when it was time for her to testify, she showed up with an attorney who informed prosecutors that the woman was invoking her right not to incriminate herself.
Alizadeh then called the Department of Justice, which agreed to give the woman immunity in exchange for her truthful testimony.
Jurors listened to a 22-minute recorded statement from the woman’s interviews. Moments later, she was brought before jurors. She told them that her initial statements were untrue. She had simply repeated what her boyfriend told her he had seen.
CLIP FROM ‘THE INTERNET’
The prosecutors give the jurors a clip “taken off the Internet” that was widely circulated after the shooting. It purports to have a voice in the crowd saying Brown charged at the officer. There is no identification of who allegedly made the comment.
To introduce the clip, the prosecutor said, “We don’t have a transcript of this and I think one of the reasons, as you will see, it is very difficult to hear it, and I don’t want to be in a position that I’m saying this is what we think is being said because it is your job to decide what you think is being said.”
TOUGHNESS, NOT OPINION
As she prepared to turn the case over to the grand jury deliberations, Alizadeh noted that she and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Sheila Whirley were not permitted to make closing arguments, but she wanted to make this clear:
“We wanted to point out that if at times it seemed like in our questions we were somehow expressing our opinions either about what we think the evidence is, or about the credibility of a witness. We want you to understand as attorneys it is our job to challenge witnesses’ statements and that sometimes, you know, you don’t get to the truth unless you challenge a witness statement.”
Jean Buchanan, Stephen Deere, Jeremy Kohler, Robert Patrick and Walker Moskop of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
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