The Corner

Ferguson Witness: Michael Brown Did Not Have His Hands Up

Exactly what happened between Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson on August 9 is still unknown. Were Michael Brown’s hands in the air when he was killed, as has been widely claimed? Did Officer Wilson open fire while Brown was running away? Did he shoot while Brown’s back was turned? And did he continue the fight after Brown had indicated that he longer wanted any part of it? Per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one eyewitness says “no.”

One Canfield resident — who said he saw the killing of Brown from start to finish and talked to the grand jury recently — has given the Post-Dispatch an account with some key differences from previous public statements from other witnesses.

Among the recollections of the witness, who agreed to an interview on the condition that his name not be used, were:

• After an initial scuffle in the car, the officer did not fire until Brown turned back toward him.

• Brown put his arms out to his sides but never raised his hands high.

• Brown staggered toward Wilson despite commands to stop.

• The two were about 20 to 25 feet apart when the last shots were fired.

He would not detail what he had told the grand jury but said the members seemed fair and asked a lot of questions.

Witnesses have given differing accounts since the white officer killed the unarmed black teen Aug. 9, triggering protests, riots and national attention.

As the paper notes, if Brown did not have his hands up, the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” meme will have been rather premature:

Some have said Brown raised his arms high in surrender, giving rise to a common protesters’ chant of “Hands up, don’t shoot” while mimicking the move. But this witness said Brown never put his hands straight up but held his elbows straight out from his torso, with palms turned up in a sort of gesture of disbelief.

The new testimony contradicts the descriptions provided by Michael Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, and onlookers Piaget Cranshaw and Tiffany Mitchell. According to MSNBC, Johnson claims that, after Officer Wilson opened fire, the two

took off running together. There were three cars lined up along the side of the street. Johnson says he ducked behind the first car, whose two passengers were screaming. Crouching down a bit, he watched Brown run past.

“Keep running, bro!,” he said Brown yelled. Then Brown yelled it a second time. Those would be the last words Johnson’s friend, “Big Mike,” would ever say to him.

Brown made it past the third car. Then, “blam!” the officer took his second shot, striking Brown in the back. At that point, Johnson says Brown stopped, turned with his hands up and said “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!”

 By that point, Johnson says the officer and Brown were face-to-face. The officer then fired several more shots. Johnson described watching Brown go from standing with his hands up to crumbling to the ground and curling into a fetal position.

Piaget Cranshaw, by contrast, told Newsweek that,

it looked like the officer was trying to pull Brown into the car, [Crenshaw said.] When that didn’t work, she said the officer chased after Brown and shot multiple times, though none of those shots appeared to hit Brown. In the end, Crenshaw said, Brown “turned around and then was shot multiple times.”

For her part, Mitchell testified that:

“The cop shot a fire through the window. Michael breaks away and starts running away but the officer continued shooting.”

The St. Louis County police, meanwhile, claim that:

Wilson attempted to get out of his car and Brown pushed him back inside. A struggle ensued inside the car, in which Brown tried to take the officer’s gun. A shot was fired from inside the car. The officer then stepped out of the car and shot Brown, who died of his injuries.

With such starkly various accounts, I would imagine that the likelihood of an indictment is low, and the likelihood of a conviction is even lower. Fair or not, presumption of innocence always favors the living.

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