What Does the Autopsy of Michael Brown Tell Us?

The aftermath of the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri has gripped the nation. The nightly protests in the city have the world watching events unfold, mainly through social media and citizen journalists. As protestors chant for justice in the tear-gas filled streets, investigators are looking into the most important question – what happened to Michael Brown?

The Ferguson police department has refused to give any detailed information. Thus far, the information they have released has been at the behest of press information requests, and the details only seem to serve to disparage the victim. This has led to a lack of trust in the investigation and Mike Brown’s family requesting a separate investigation.

While the results of the initial autopsy have still not been released by officials, results from one requested by the family were released on Sunday. The autopsy was performed by Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, and assistant pathologist Professor Shawn Parcells from Kansas. Dr. Baden flew to Missouri at the request of the family and waived his normal $10,000 fee due to the extraordinary circumstances of the case. He is one of only 400 forensic pathologists in the United States.

The preliminary results are the first concrete information about the case since Brown’s death on August 9. As the New York Times details, Brown was shot at least six times. Four of the wounds were on his right arm – one on his right hand and forearm, and two on his upper arm. The positioning of the wounds can indicate several things. At least three of them show that Brown was facing the officer. Dr. Baden says the wounds suggest he was shot from the front, though Mr. Parcells notes that arms flail. The wound on his forearm is a superficial graze wound, and could happen while running away from the officer, or trying to shield his body by placing his arm in front of his body.

All four wounds in his right arm could have also been the result of him standing, surrendering with his arms up, however, which is consistent with several eye witness accounts. Most importantly, none of these wounds were fatal.

Dr. Baden reports that several of the bullets entered and exited Brown’s body, leaving multiple wounds. The bullet that entered Brown’s right eye shattered it, “traveled through his face, exited his jaw and re-entered his collarbone.” This shot may not have killed him, but it would have definitely stopped him in his tracks. The most likely fatal shot, according to Dr. Baden, was the one that was shot through the top of his head and into his brain.

Mike Brown was 6 feet 4 inches tall.

In an interview with NPR’s Here & Now, forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht discussed what can and can’t be determined from this information. Dr. Wecht was not involved in the autopsy but offered his expert take after reviewing the published results. “He died from the bullet wound in his brain,” he says. “Even the wound in the eye… most probably would have been survivable.”

He continues, “That tells me that multiple shots were fired and, interestingly, that the last one may have been the shot that killed him. Between the two shots on the head, I can’t be certain which was fired first. I do believe the two head wounds came after the four shots to the right arm.”

One of the things that several witnesses have said is that Mike Brown ran from the officer after an altercation while the officer was still in his vehicle. They also state that Brown was shot after he raised his arms in surrender and faced the officer from several feet away.  This information is particularly important based on Dr. Wecht’s assessment that “the one [head wound] has a very definitive downward trajectory, as a matter of fact, perpendicular to the ground, that tells me that Michael Brown was toppling, he was already falling down when that shot was fired.”

Some witnesses have said that the unarmed Michael Brown was charging like a raging bull towards the officer that was shooting at him. To that claim, Dr. Wecht says, “I think that’s highly unlikely and wild conjecture. He was falling down, pitching forward, when that shot was fired.”

This assessment is also consistent with other eyewitness accounts that Officer Darren Wilson continued to shoot after Michael Brown was already on the ground.

Dr. Baden only had access to Mr. Brown’s remains. He did not have access to any police reports, photos from the scene or even the clothing that Brown was wearing at the time of his death. He also has not seen other important parts of the investigation, including x-rays showing where the bullets were found since they were already removed when he examined the remains. Dr. Baden would need more information to give other definitive conclusions.

For now, we only have clues as to what happened on that fateful Saturday afternoon.

More clues may come from a third autopsy that is being conducted by military pathologists at the request of the Department of Justice. The DOJ has sent their own investigators, including the FBI, to Ferguson due to the extreme circumstances of the case. They are also widening their investigation to look into any civil rights violations not just in the Brown case, but for the Ferguson Police Department as a whole.

Three autopsies are highly unusual in any case. However, the way the police department has handled the investigation has led to little confidence that the department’s results would be unbiased. While the multiple autopsies could have corroborating conclusions, the multiple dissections of the body could obfuscate results and further complicate the case.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder flew to Ferguson to get an update on the investigation, just as a grand jury convened on Wednesday to hear evidence against Darren Wilson.

In the meantime, the protests continue in Ferguson amid heightened tensions with police in search of justice for Michael Brown.

Photo by Loavesofbread via Wikimedia Commons


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm4 years ago

ON top of all he has call screeners…….so he already knws exactly what the caller is going to say and he has infromation fed to him on a screen so its NOT jsut Rush defeating a liberal caller it sn entire room full of people feeding him retorts etc. One of the ways these programs works is these poroblem callers……if they are even allowed on the show is they put them on right before a commerical break and them conveniently limit the time so that Rush or whoever the person is…..can make their pioint in a timely manner and then RIGHT to a commercial.

There arent TRUE debates. These are all very carefully orchestrated theater. And clowns like David get sucked right in. The shows are actually quite addictive after a while. They keep you fired up…..in my case in hatred for the idiocy of the host.
But you DO start craving that anger etc the show causes. It is high drama.

But it IS jsut a show………NOTHING else. DRAMA nothing else…….and VERY carefully directed and controlled. Rush and Hannity and Orielly are HEROES and their image to the right MUST be protected. So OF COURSE they always win. Its no different than watching CSI…….or the WWE.
Eventually I had to break away from it all and started listening to podcasts of everything NOT political. And my hatred and anger vaporized withing a week.

Matt L.
Maitreya L4 years ago

Heck even a bright middle school student could probably easily take Limbaugh on in a fair debate where he could not just hang up on or edit out his opponent.

Matt L.
Maitreya L4 years ago

David F. O'Reilly was only right about a couple of statistics. Black on black violence and out of wedlock children are indeed high, his opinions on the causes and solutions were ridiculous though. Black women are one of the most Christian/religious demographics in the US, so encouraging abstinence doesn't do squat. Sex ed does make a difference which has been proven many times. Obviously 1st grade sex ed is overkill if anyone actually does that, but sex ed during or shortly before puberty and on is a good idea and has been proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortion.

Poverty and general lack of education correlate strongly with violence and unwed pregnancy rates though.

My solutions mostly involve treating minorities like human beings and trying to make life a little more fair for them. Sex-ed, better education, job training for anyone in extreme poverty. Sadly there are no simple and easy solutions as Rush or O'Reilly suggest.

Also as Robert H. said talk shows are for entertainment designed to appeal to people's baser emotions and often edited to make the host look as good as possible. O'Reilly at least had the guts to talk to Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert occasionally even though they owned him. To my knowledge, Rush has not even had the courage to invite them on his show, and they are just liberal leaning comedians. Though if I'm wrong, I would love to see any clips of Jon Stewart or Colbert, or even better yet John Oliver vs. Rush. Heck eve

john hall
john hall4 years ago

I can tell you what it says #1 eye witnesses lied when they said Brown had his back to the cop when he was shot. Other than that he was shot 6 times and he's dead nothing new... Brian F do you really believe their hiding evidence to help this officer out,i don't think so...but i'll give you this i hope that isn't the case.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm4 years ago

If you think Orieklly is too liberal then YOU are so far right its lucdicrous and you simply cant ever be taken seriously. You are wayyyyyyyyyy out of the mainstream. THESE ARE ENTERTAINMENT SHOWS!!! THEY ARE MEANT TO PISS YOU OFF AND MAKE YOU SAY HAY EVERY TIME RUSH SCORES A POINT. And you are so clueless you think its real. ALL Radio shows are edited David….ALL of them EVERY interview does NOT make it on the air. if by chance a liberal bested him how would you know David??
THrre is NO purprose served on Rush EVER Losing the argument EVER!! If Rush didnt win ever fight the listeners would be furious with him. Talk Radio is much like the WWE. Its entertainment. it isnt real. It is meant to stir up and excite. I used to listen to it daily when I did courier work bettween jobs. I know exactly what happens.

Obviously you love the entertainment. But saying Rush is always right is laughable.
And Orielly is jsut the last dying breath of the angry old farts screaming get off my lawn pretending he has the answers to questions he doesnt even understand. zoh there isd alwsays some small kernel of truth in what he says……but he oversimplifies why things are the way they are,. he doesnt believe in Gray areas. There is good and evil black and white. Thts how he pretends to see the world. That is so incredibly naive it doesnt even deserve analysis. And you being even further right than him makes you even more naive.

Berny p.
berny p4 years ago

When you see these people rioting, burning shops, screaming...etc.......I am very glad that I dont live in the US and that I dont have to have anything to do with them......

I fell really sorry for the people who have to live with these.......people?????????????

Matt L.
Maitreya L4 years ago

Both he and Rush just start screaming at anyone who disagrees with them to try and intimidate them into shutting up, then hang up on them or kick them out the studio if that doesn't work.

Matt L.
Maitreya L4 years ago

So no it is not fair that young black people go to prison for basically doing the same thing as say Anheuser-Busch or the local corner store. They do not destroy cities by themselves. Your hero, Rush Limbaugh was arrested on drug charges because of his prescription drug addiction. I don't recall him serving any time.

Absentee Fathers: Well, O'Reilly is maybe just a tiny bit right. It is still all related to poverty though. Kids don't need a father/mother specifically, they just need adults who can/will spend time with them, and who can actually afford to take care of them. The kids of single parents do just fine if their parent has the resources to provide a stable, nurturing home. It doesn't matter who their parental figures all. Now having kids they can't support is indeed a problem, but that is where sex-ed and better schooling comes in.

"Entertainers" this just sounds like typical old person ranting about younger people's music. "Rock N Roll is the devils music." Older people just tend to not like younger people's favorite music, shows, ect. but it has never been shown to have much of an impact. Now that I'm getting a little older I see I sometimes don't like younger people's music either, but there is just not any evidence it actually causes crime or violence.

So O'Reilly is almost entirely hot air, and hardly ever bases any of his opinions on actual evidence. Both he and Rush just start screaming at anyone who disagrees with them to try and in

Matt L.
Maitreya L4 years ago

David F. Wrote: "Rush is right, as always, just call him and challenge him on anything liberal"
Interrupting people, yelling and insulting them, then and hanging up on them does not make him "right" in any fashion, he's too chicken to have any serious debates with liberals. Though I may indeed try calling him sometime just for sh**s and giggles.

David F. wrote: "Explain to us why he is wrong with this commentary."

He blames all of black people's problems on absentee fathers, sex, drugs and "entertainment." Typical old, mildly racist white person opinions. Almost completely devoid of facts.

For one thing teaching abstinence has been proven time and time to simply not work. What kids need is sex ed which has been proven to work. Only 5% of the population practices abstinence, because hardly anyone can resist their hormones that long. Even our grandparents usually did not practice abstinence.

With drugs the thing is, 2 of the most dangerous and addictive are legal, alcohol and tobacco cause more damage to society overall than any of the illegal drugs, yet the people who sell them don't go to jail.
http://www.dailytech.com/Study Alcohol is Deadliest Drug More Dangerous Than Heroin/article20038.htm
The large majority of people can use drugs occasionally, even the nasty ones like heroin, meth or alcohol without getting addicted. So no it is not fair that young black people go to pri