While the world watches the political and racial protests unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, officials investigating the Michael Brown police shooting turn attention to testimony from expert forensic pathologists to identify details in the teen’s death. Although witnesses to the shooting will provide information regarding the incident, the scientific data gathered by pathologists is expected to provide hard evidence designed to help investigators clear up the uncertainties surrounding Brown’s death.
Brown Family Hires Two Independent Pathologists
New York City Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Michael Baden, and forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells were called upon by family members to conduct an independent autopsy of Michael Brown’s body. Although Ferguson officials had performed an autopsy, the importance of understanding how the teenager died has warranted independent forensic expert testimony.
After conducting the autopsy, Drs. Baden and Parcells confirmed that Brown was shot at least 6 times, possibly 8, with two of those shots, including the fatal one, hitting the young man in the head. Dr. Baden also confirmed that Brown did not have gunpowder on his body – suggesting he was not shot at close range – and that the angle of the fatal head shot indicated the young man was bent forward when he was shot. Baden theorized that Brown could have survived the other wounds, but the head shots would have caused immediate death.
Beyond the certainty that Brown was shot multiple times, including twice in the head, the independent expert pathologists were unable to make definitive conclusions after their review of the body. Parcells noted that a bullet wound to Brown’s right arm may indicate that his hands were raised at the time of impact – confirming witness accounts that Brown’s arms were above his head – but more investigation into the wound is required. Brown’s bullet wounds could also suggest that he had his back to the police officer, but neither Baden nor Parcells were able to say with clarity that this was the case.
Independent Pathologist Experts Alleviate Fears of Cover Up
Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump announced that Michael’s relatives wanted the independently performed autopsy due to distrust of the officials conducting the investigation. “They could not trust what was going to be put in the reports about the tragic execution of their child,” Crump said in a news conference this week. Dr. Baden reinforced the importance of the independent expert testimony by noting that the unbiased transparency of his and Dr. Parcell’s examination was key to alleviating the concerns of an already on-edge community.
Adding to the investigation will be a federally performed autopsy ordered by US Attorney General Eric Holder, a step that Baden called “appropriate,” but also “extremely unusual.” Despite unanswered questions, the Brown family expressed encouragement by the confirmation that Michael was shot at least 6 times, a fact that will likely be used to build both a prosecution of the responsible officer and a lawsuit against the Ferguson police department. As the investigation continues, federal, local, and independent forensic pathologist experts will conduct more thorough examinations of Brown’s body and clothing in an effort to determine what happened on the day of his shooting.