The grand jury tasked with weighing criminal charges against the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown will have to make sense of a muddled and conflicting series of narratives over the next several weeks.
Accounts of the deadly police shooting, which has rocked the St. Louis suburb since Aug. 9 and led to nearly two weeks of protests and clashes between police and demonstrators, have varied wildly between police, friends of Brown and residents of the Canfield Green Apartments where the shooting took place.
Witnesses differ at almost every crucial turn of the story, raising several questions for the jury to answer. Did Brown have his hands up? Was Officer Darren Wilson the aggressor, or did Brown attack him in his car? Was Brown running away when Wilson opened fire?
A summary of some of the key witness descriptions can be found below:
A 22-year-old Ferguson resident and friend of Brown, Johnson said he was walking alongside the 18-year-old on Aug. 9 when Wilson drove alongside them in a police car and ordered them to “get the eff onto the sidewalk.”
A brief argument erupted, but Wilson then appeared to drive off, Johnson has said. Seconds later, Wilson pulled the car in front of both Brown and Johnson and flung his door open, striking both men.
Johnson said Wilson then thrust his arm through the open window of the car and grabbed Brown by the neck. After a brief struggle, Wilson drew his firearm and threatened to shoot Brown, Johnson said.
Wilson fired once, wounding Brown, and the two friends started running, Johnson said.
But Wilson continued to fire, according to Johnson, fatally wounding Brown. Autopsies have shown Brown was shot six times.
Chief Thomas Jackson has said Wilson had just finished responding to an unrelated call when he came upon Brown and Johnson. Wilson was aware that a robbery had occurred minutes earlier at a convenience store, and became suspicious when he noticed a box of cigars in Brown’s hand.
Though Wilson did not know Brown was a suspect in that incident, Jackson said Brown shoved the officer when he attempted to exit his car.
Brown then entered the car and began struggling with Wilson for his gun. A shot was fired in the car, and both men fell into the street, where the fatal shots were fired, Jackson has said.
In a Wednesday night interview with CNN, Brady told Anderson Cooper that he was at the Canfield Green Apartments on Aug. 9 when he saw Brown and Johnson near a police car, and something didn’t quite look right. “There was some kind of tussle” at the police car window, he said, and suddenly the pair took off running,
Brady said Wilson jumped from his car and opened fire, so Brady ran out of his apartment to get a closer look. Brown was 20 to 25 feet away from Wilson when the officer opened fire, Brady said.
Brady said he did not see Brown with his hands raised, but he also said he missed a few seconds of the action when we went to get his cellphone to record what was happening. When Brady ran out to the street, he saw Brown doubled over from gunshot wounds, staggering toward Wilson.
Wilson then shot him three more times, Brady said.
“By the time I get outside he’s already turned around facing the officer. He’s balled up; he have his arm like under his stomach,” Brady said on CNN.
“He was going down. It didn’t even look like he was giving up; it just looked like, ‘ah, I’m hit,’” Brady continued. “I didn’t see no hands up; if he did I probably just missed it.”
Crenshaw, another Ferguson resident, told local television affiliates that she saw Wilson running after Brown and shooting him at least once.
Brown then attempted to surrender, Crenshaw said, but Wilson unleashed a second volley of gunfire.
“They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died,” Crenshaw said.
A woman who would only give her first name described Wilson’s version of events to a local radio station this week, claiming Brown not only attacked Wilson first but rushed him headlong after the initial shot was fired.
A law enforcement source has told CNN the woman’s account matches the description Wilson has given to investigators.
In the interview, Josie said Brown and Johnson were walking in the middle of the street when Wilson asked them to move to the sidewalk.
After a brief argument, Wilson received a call about the convenience store robbery and noticed Brown matched the description of the suspect and was carrying a box of cigars in his hand, Josie said.
Wilson pulled alongside the two men again, according to Josie, who said Brown then pounced on the officer.
“Michael just bum-rushes him, just shoves him back into his car, punches him in the face,” she said.
The two men struggled for Wilson’s service weapon, which went off once inside the car, she said.
Brown and Johnson fled, she said, and after another verbal exchange at a distance of about 35 feet, Brown charged at Wilson.
“All of a sudden he just started to bum-rush him; he started to run at him full speed,” she said in the interview. “He just kept coming; it was unbelievable.”
Wilson then opened fire a second time, she said, killing Brown.
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