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Autopsy inconclusive on whether teen was shot with hands up

Obama says small minority of protesters undermining justice.

First Published Aug 18 2014 08:51 am • Last Updated Aug 18 2014 09:10 pm

Ferguson, Mo. • An unarmed 18-year-old whose fatal shooting by police has sparked a week of protests in suburban St. Louis suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may indicate his hands were up or his back was turned, a pathologist hired by his family said Monday.

But the pathologist said the team that examined Michael Brown can’t be sure yet exactly how the wounds were inflicted, citing the need for more information.

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An independent autopsy determined that Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, the family’s lawyers and hired pathologists said.

Witnesses have said Brown’s hands were above his head when he was repeatedly shot by an officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said the vast majority of protesters in Ferguson were peaceful, but warned that a small minority was undermining justice.

During a brief pause in his summer vacation, Obama said overcoming the mistrust endemic between many communities and their local police would require Americans to "listen and not just shout."

The president also weighed in for the first time publicly on the militarization of some local police departments, saying it would probably be useful to examine how federal grant dollars had been used to allow local police to purchase military-style equipment.

Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to travel to Ferguson later this week to meet with FBI and other officials carrying out an independent federal investigation into Brown’s death.

Obama said he told Nixon he wanted to ensure Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s use of the National Guard was limited in scope.

Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells, who assisted former New York City chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden during the private autopsy, said a bullet grazed Brown’s right arm. He said the wound indicates Brown may have had his back to the shooter, or he could have been facing the shooter with his hands above his head or in a defensive position across his chest or face.


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"We don’t know," Parcells said. "We still have to look at the other (elements) of this investigation before we start piecing things together."

A third and final autopsy was performed Monday for the Justice Department by one of the military’s most experienced medical examiners, Holder said.

Also Monday, Nixon lifted the neighborhood’s midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew two days after it went into effect when he declared a state of emergency. The governor had summoned the National Guard overnight after police again used tear gas to quell protesters.

Nixon said the National Guard troops would be under the direction of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which is overseeing security during protests.

As darkness fell Monday, National Guard units with armored vehicles were waiting at a staging area about a half-mile from the portion of West Florissant Avenue that has been the scene of the largest protests.

Closer to the protest site, a crowd of demonstrators was marching and growing in size. Sheriff’s deputies in body armor and state troopers carrying wooden bats and gas masks stood watch over the group.

Police were telling protesters Monday that they could not assemble in a single spot, saying they had to keep moving. In federal court, a judge denied a request from the American Civil Liberties Union for a restraining order that would have prevented authorities from enforcing the rule.

Two men were arrested for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, police said. A news photographer was also arrested while covering the demonstrations.

Authorities were also establishing a designated protest zone for nightly demonstrations. The plan was announced Monday by St. Louis County police.

It was not clear what would happen to those who refuse to use the area along West Florissant Avenue, where the majority of protests have occurred.

A grand jury could begin hearing evidence Wednesday to determine whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged in Brown’s death, said Ed Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County’s prosecuting attorney.

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