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Violence Continues to Escalate in Ferguson in the Wake of Michael Brown’s Murder

Violence Continues to Escalate in Ferguson in the Wake of Michael Brown’s Murder

It has been five days since a police officer gunned down 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and an incident that allegedly stemmed from two African American teens walking in the street has now filled those streets with police, tanks, tear gas and a town full of residents demanding answers and accountability from local law enforcement.

Police violence escalated on Wednesday night, as tear gas canisters, wooden and rubber bullets and smoke bombs were used to disperse crowds out on the street once the sun went down. Media became a definite target of law enforcement officers, as reporters were arrested and detained and camera crews gassed out of position and their equipment dismantled. One Washington Post reporter later shared the story of his arrest at a local McDonalds where he was recharging his equipment and taking notes.

“Multiple officers grabbed me,” writes Wesley Lowery. “I tried to turn my back to them to assist them in arresting me. I dropped the things from my hands. ‘My hands are behind my back,’ I said. ‘I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.’ At which point one officer said: ‘You’re resisting. Stop resisting.’”

Both Lowery and a reporter from Huffington Post were then placed in a van and taken to the station, where they were eventually released with no charges.

While some reporters were being detained by police to get them off the streets, others were targeted more directly. Local station KSDK.com caught footage of a camera crew from Al Jazeera, which had a canister of gas thrown at them from the cops in an otherwise empty street. After the reporters left amidst the smoke and gas, officers in masks can be seen going to their equipment, turning off the lights, and moving the cameras so there were all focused downward at the pavement. The officers then see the other camera crew filming their actions and charge at them, demanding they get off the street. Other than the police and reporters, there is no one in the area. Another media crew said they were hit with a bean bag projectile shot at them by the police shortly after they filmed officers apparently beating a person with clubs.

Media may have been a primary target for intimidation and arrests, but local officials were also jailed. Most notably detained was St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who, although he does not represent the area, has been tweeting from the ground locally for days and demanding that the police answer for their actions. According to French, he was arrested for unlawful assembly, although no charges were ever officially drawn up, and was held overnight in a local jail with other activists.

“Inside that jail is nothing but peacekeepers,” he told St. Louis Today. “They rounded up the wrong people … reverends, young people organizing the peace effort.” According to French, protesters were gathered together when police told them to disperse, then began to release smoke bombs. He was recording the scene from inside his car to avoid the smoke when his door was opened and he was dragged out and told he was being arrested “because [he] didn’t listen.” French claims that the protest was entirely peaceful until the police arrived and told everyone they needed to leave, in an attempt to limit protests once the sun was down. “We have a right to protest 24 hours a day. Our constitutional rights don’t expire at 9 p.m,” he said.

Film from the ground shows a police presence that escalated what appeared to be a massive but non-violent protest, leaving neighborhoods littered with gas canisters, bullets and other weapons. Those on the streets say the police rolled in ready for a skirmish, which they then prepared to “prevent” the moment the sun began to set. “At 8:22 P.M., the police began demanding that the crowd stay twenty-five feet away from them and their vehicles,” reports Jelani Cobb at the New Yorker. “A voice in the crowd shouted, ‘Michael Brown was thirty-five feet away when you killed him!’ I stood near a cluster of journalists, but less than two hours after Lowery and Reilly had been arrested, nothing suggested that the police there would make distinctions between people protesting and those who were covering it. Officers demanded that we move farther back, as well. People began chanting ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!’ Ten minutes later, the sound of breaking glass was heard and the police demanded that the crowd disperse. Only seconds after that I saw a half-dozen canisters launch into the air and the streets were bathed in the strobe lights of flash grenades.”

Cobb notes that the crowd dispersed in about 10 minutes, but the gassing in the streets continued for two hours more.

Thursday gives the hopes of a fresh start in the attempt to find answers and de-escalate the situation in Ferguson. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon arrived in the city to speak with residents and officials, as did Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. The St. Louis County police have been pulled from duty in the area, to be replaced with either local or federal officers. Witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown are finally being questioned to have their accounts added into the investigation, most of them disputing the official police statement that Brown was shot after wrestling with a police officer over his gun.

Even the President of the United States has finally weighed in on the situation, telling the public in a press conference that he is in constant contact with the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder, who is running an investigation into civil rights violations in Brown’s death, and the FBI.

“When something like this happens, the local authorities, including the police, have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting people in their communities,” said the President in a statement. He also noted police escalation, stating, “There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their first amendment rights. And here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who were just trying to do their job.”

Even if we eventually get answers on what exactly happened in the murder of Michael Brown or why an unarmed young man was shot multiple times by a local police officer, we have even bigger questions that still need to be addressed. Why have our local police departments been armed like military forces and who is stopping those forces from turning those weapons on the public in the name of security?

This all allegedly started with two teens walking down a street. Now, armored trucks are rolling down that street instead. As a public, we must demand to know how we got from there to here.

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9:59AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

The shot to the back of Brown’s upper arm, Melinek said, suggested he could have been shot from behind.

As of this writing, the story is still up and uncorrected at St. Louis Today. It's headed by the screen cap posted above, from WPIX News in New York.

This is despite the fact that Dr. Melinek has disputed their story, saying it was full of "inaccurate and misleading quotes," and gone on television to correct the record.

Frankly, I don't expect them to make the corrections. not do I expect the Washington Post or the various other newspapers, websites and blogs to do the right thing.

You're going to hear that the autopsy proves Michael Brown was going for Darren Wilson's gun and that he didn't have his hands up.

But at least you'll know where the misinformation came from and where you can find the correction.

Your interpretation based on misquotes and mistated, or fabricated comments by bad journalists helped you concoct a plausible splainin that still has holes in it.

But it also helps us understand how much confirmation bias plays into your head when you write the comments you do.

Not lookin good there Bill.

9:56AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

Again, there's a big difference between "did not support witnesses" who said his hands were up and "can't say within reasonable certainty" that his hands were up -- when that shot hit him.

That particular wound goes from back to front, which actually supports earlier eyewitness testimony that Wilson shot at Michael Brown while he was running away, and appeared to hit him. And again, Melinek corrected the Post-Dispatch's reporting when she spoke with O'Donnell last night.


All but one of the gunshots, Melinek said, seem to have struck Brown in the front of his body,

which is consistent with witnesses who said Brown had been facing Wilson when he was shot. Depending on any witnesses physical proximity to the shooting, Brown could have been turning to Wilson in surrender, stumbling toward him after being shot or charging him.

9:54AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

But the reporters' BS doesn't end there. The article goes on:

Melinek also said the autopsy did not support witnesses who have claimed Brown was shot while running away from Wilson, or with his hands up.

A sixth shot that hit the forearm traveled from the back of the arm to the inner arm, which means Brown’s palms could not have been facing Wilson, as some witnesses have said, Melinek said. That trajectory shows Brown probably was not taking a standard surrender position with arms above the shoulders and palms out when he was hit, she said.

The part cut with the ... was a description of the wounds to Michael Brown's head, chest and torso.

No one disagrees that those shots were fired when Michael Brown was facing Darren Wilson. It's that last paragraph that's a problem.


Here's what Dr. Melinek actually had to say about that forearm wound:


You can't say within reasonable certainty that his hands were up based on the autopsy findings alone.

The back to front and upward trajectory of the right forearm wound could occur in multiple orientations and a trajectory reconstruction would need to be done using the witness statements, casings, height of the weapon and other evidence from the scene,

which have yet to be released.

9:53AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

"Wait, what? That's a pretty big leap."

And indeed it is. If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off,

it means ... his hand was near the gun when it went off.

We don't know why or how his hand got there. It's just as likely that he was trying to block the gun because he was afraid that Darren Wilson was about to kill him. (Not a possibility in your world Mr Bill?)

And, in fact, Melinek appeared on Lawrence O'Donnell's "The Last Word" last night

to essentially call BS on what the Post-Dispatch said she said, and followed it up with the previously-linked post on her blog.

According to the doctor, this is what she told the reporter from the newspaper (emphasis mine):

The graze wound on the right thumb is oriented upwards, indicating that the tip of the thumb is toward the weapon. The hand wound has gunpowder particles on microscopic examination, which suggests that it is a close-range wound. That means that Mr. Brown's hand would have been close to the barrel of the gun. Given the investigative report which says that the officer's weapon discharged during a struggle in the officer's car, this wound to the right thumb likely occurred at that time.

We all know that "close to the barrel of the gun" is the exact same thing as "going for the gun."

Or not. Lucy, you got some splainin to do.

9:50AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

It's not the first time that Dr. Melinek has opined on an autopsy performed on Michael Brown, either. Back in August after the family released the results of the second autopsy, performed by Dr. Michael Baden, Dr. Melinek wrote this about the tweaked autopsy sketch that went viral:

Even if Dr. Baden, a board-certified forensic pathologist, looked at photos of the injuries taken prior to the embalming, the orientation and quality of the photos taken by the technician would influence his interpretation of the findings.

Autopsy means "see for yourself"—and there is no substitute for seeing the undisturbed body for yourself if you are going to be offering opinions with legal ramifications.

It was difficult to reconcile the person who wrote that with the person who was quoted in Byers' and Bernhard's article. It's important to remember that Dr. Melinek was not offering an opinion with legal ramifications.

Rather, she was offering an opinion to a reporter, whose reporting would help shape public opinion in a highly contentious court case.

The reporters quoted her thus:

Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco, said the autopsy “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.” She added, “If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun.”

9:48AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

So either the expert was incredibly biased,

or that there were details in the autopsy that didn't make it into the newspaper. And there is a third possibility - that is that the reporters made up quotes out of their own heads - but that appears to be exactly what happened.

As to how she got dragged into this whole thing, here's the explanation in Dr. Melinek's own words:

A reporter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called me earlier this week, saying she had Michael Brown's official autopsy report as prepared by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner, and asking me if I would examine and analyze it from the perspective of a forensic pathologist with no official involvement in the Ferguson, Missouri shooting death.

I bring this up because earlier this afternoon, MSNBC's Joy Reid referred to Dr. Melinek as the doctor who performed the autopsy.


Now, Reid is usually pretty on-point with the facts in her reporting, but this was a big oops. And if she's making it, you can be sure that others are definitely making the same mistake. Hmmmmm? Bill? Got some splainin to do?

9:45AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

Continued

The expert quoted has since told Lawrence O'Donnell that she was only asked if the autopsy report was consistent with Darren Wilson's version of events.

She was not asked if it fit other scenarios, though there are eyewitness accounts that differ from Wilson's account.

Now, here's a deeper dive with links and quotes - but before we take a look at what Dr. Melinek told the Post-Dispatch - or to be more specific, what the Post-Dispatch chose to print - let's take a look at who Judy Melinek is and how she happens to come into this.

Judy Melinek is a California forensics expert who is frequently called upon as a consultant to interpret autopsy results. She has spent time as a medical examiner, and has written a book about her experiences.

When you first read the article in the St. Louis paper, you should be flabbergasted at the quotes attributed to her - and you'll see in the excerpts below that the reports presented them as actual quotes, not as paraphrases.

The fact that someone's hand is near a gun when it goes off does not necessarily mean that they were "going for the gun."

9:43AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

Bill Your Point isn't clear. It is distorted. We can see your need to use biased material to defend Wilson, and to defend authorities, and journalists who provide you with the bunk you use.

Here's a synopsis of the problems with the article written by Christine Byers and Blythe Bernhard for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The Post-Dispatch says that the autopsy report supports Wilson's version of events. In fact, it supports the earlier eyewitness testimony at least as much as it does Wilson's.
The Post-Dispatch (and later, the Washington Post, which essentially reported on the the St. Louis reporting)

claims that a forensic expert said the autopsy shows that Michael Brown was "going for his (Wilson's) gun."

Except that's not what the expert said - at least not in anything she provided on the record. She told Lawrence O'Donnell that it was just as likely that Brown was trying to defend himself from being shot.

The Post-Dispatch quotes the expert saying that Michael Brown's was not in surrender posture when he was shot. She actually wrote that she can't say with reasonable certainty that his hands were up when he was shot in the right forearm.

The article claims the expert said the autopsy didn't support witnesses who said Michael Brown was shot while running away or with his hands up.

She apparently said nothing of the sort.


6:46AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

Bill C, you have not watched ALL the info on this. Go dig up the video of the store manager being interviewed--in which he says Michael Brown PAID FOR THE ITEMS THAT HE IS ALLEGED TO HAVE STOLEN.

Racist BS is never a good idea, and that is ALL you will find on Faux Nes.

6:40AM PDT on Oct 26, 2014

Point is clear, Brown has done a petty theft at a store (unknown to the cop but known to Brown) it is not a far reach to look at Browns reaction. IMO it went as the cop said an assault after a call for ID which led to shots fired and Brown hit. Brown ran and turned to face a cop that had the adrenalin (as did Brown) of the action he was not 100 feet away but inside the 21 foot kill zone (knife v gun) Brown charged and in that ducked as a natural move and took a shot to the head.

Forensics independent of government confirm.

IMO had Brown given an ID nothing would have happened, it is unwise to attack a police officer.

My experience about cops is a bit different than yours I spent much of my early childhood with K-9 cops n horses as many in my moms family were large city cops, detectives and EMT. I knew crooked as well as good cops but I also know what their day to day life was.

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