CNN reports on an audio recording that purports to show that eleven shots were fired at Michael Brown:
If this is indeed audio of the shooting — and, crucially, if it is complete — it seems to do some harm to the St. Louis Police Department’s account. Give or take, there are two main fusillades on the recording: First, a round of 6 shots; then a brief pause; and then, three or so seconds later, a second round of four shots. (I can’t hear the eleventh, but the attorney for the man who recorded the audio insists it is there.) Last week, the SLPD claimed 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.
I can’t see how this connects in any meaningful way to the audio. On the recording, there is almost no gap at all between the first shot and the next five – certainly not enough time to meaningfully separate out the single shot that was supposedly fired from within the car. Are we to believe that when the department says “a shot,” they mean “six shots”? Alternatively, if we presume that the initial shot is missing from the audio, are we to believe that the officer fired all ten or eleven rounds at Michael Brown while he was being charged and just happened to pause for three seconds in between shooting? Anything is possible, of course. But that seems odd to me.
The audio also calls into question the testimony of Dorian Johnson, the man who was with Michael Brown at the time. Per MSNBC:
“I seen the barrel of the gun pointed at my friend,” he said. “He had it pointed at him and said ‘I’ll shoot,’ one more time.”
A second later Johnson said he heard the first shot go off.
“I seen the fire come out of the barrell,” he said. “I could see so vividly what was going on because I was so close.”
Johnson says he was within arm’s reach of both Brown and the officer. He looked over at Brown and saw blood pooling through his shirt on the right side of the body.
“The whole time [the officer] was holding my friend until the gun went off,” Johnson noted.
Brown and Johnson 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.
Given how close the first and second shots on the recording are (less than a second), it seems unlikely that Brown would have had enough time to have escaped the clutches of a police officer and run past three cars before the second shot was fired. Moreover, if the “several more shots” of Johnson’s recollection represent the second fusillade, what happened to the remaining four shots from the first barrage? Again, I suppose it is possible that the recording missed the initial couple of shots. But had a police officer fired so many rounds from such short range and paused half way through, I’d expect that Johnson would have said so.
One eyewitness account, however, scans much better. Here is Newsweek’s take on testimony from Piaget Cranshaw, a resident of Ferguson who says she watched the events unfold from her apartment:
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.”
Two sets of “multiple” shots, separated by a short break. That checks out, does it not? Moreover, as the Daily Mail notes, Cranshaw’s account has been corroborated by another witness:
Tiffany Mitchell, who watched the shooting unfold, told CNN on Wednesday that the police’s version of events – that Brown assaulted the officer and tried to grab his gun – was not true.
Brown did not enter the police vehicle, as authorities have claimed, but there appeared to be a struggle at the window, Ms Mitchell said.
’It looked as if Michael was pushing off and the cop was trying to pull him in,’ she told CNN.
’The cop shot a fire through the window. Michael breaks away and starts running away but the officer continued shooting.’
Ms Mitchell had gone to the Ferguson, Missouri neighborhood on Saturday to pick up an employee, Piaget Crenshaw, for work.
The usual caveats apply here, among them that a) witnesses are notoriously unreliable; b) that this may not be the audio at all; c) that it may be incomplete, and d) that even if it is both real and complete, it tells us nothing dispositive. I am, of course, merely piecing together what little information we have and attempting to make sense of it. But if the FBI were to come out of its investigation with the conclusion that this recording is legitimate, it would likely change the case considerably. Last week I suggested that, absent a piece of bombshell evidence, Officer Wilson was likely to walk free. This morning, I’m not so sure.