Post Mortem

by Dave Schuler on August 18, 2014

The autopsy on Michael Brown, the Ferguson teenager whose shooting has sparked more than a week of demonstrations, riots, and tens of thousands of words of commentary does not appear to me to be consistent with a “fleeing felon” scenario:

“There were at least six entry wounds, there might have been seven, but we’ll have to correlate that with what was found in the first autopsy,” he said. The first autopsy was conducted by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office. The U.S. Justice Department announced Sunday that it ordered its own autopsy.

(Ferguson update: Missouri governor deploys National Guard after clashes).

Dr. Baden said all of the gunshots were fired toward the front of Mr. Brown’s body. The results of the autopsy were first reported by the New York Times.

but with one of self-defense on the part of the police officer. It sounds to me as though either the officer is a pretty good shot or a very bad one.

I think the whole story is very sad with lots of blame and recriminations to go around however I wonder if those who’ve hinged their views on the image of a fleeing unarmed teen will be chastened by the autopsy’s findings. I’m guessing not.

For those who believe that the sad events were completely fomented by a mostly-black population and a mostly-white police force, what do you think should change? Keep in mind that until 2000 Ferguson was mostly white and it is only now mostly black. Do you think that:

  1. The population of Ferguson should have been mandated to remain white, consistent with its white police force.
  2. The police force should have been mandated to be mostly black consistent with the population it was now serving despite work rules governing hiring and firing.
  3. Some other solution and if so what?

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

CStanley August 18, 2014 at 8:50 am

This is one more instance of our polarized news coverage. The NYT and others have headlines about the number of shots fired, while burying the lede about the significance of the location of the gunshot wounds. While there is still need for an impartial investigation into the actions of the cop, the narrative that led people to believe that this was a cold blooded murder is obviously untrue and that information should be clearly conveyed. The story provided by Michael Brown’s friend is false, full stop.

As to what should be done, I have no answers. The distrust between the police and black residents is toxic, and the only hope would be for some sort of rapprochement. The introduction of the black state trooper (Johnson?) seems a good start but it will require a much more sustained effort.

Then there is the problem of overreaction and increased militarization of police forces. That would need to be dealt with in parallel with addressing racial tensions.

steve August 18, 2014 at 9:04 am

Wish they had released this sooner. How a bullet can go through an arm and into the chest and lungs from the front is a bit hard to understand, but the head shots sound frontal. My best guess would be that the guy panicked and just kept shooting once he started. One hopes this will defuse the situation a bit.

#3. Ask the community what it wanted. Was it happy with its police force and if not what was wrong. The police force should be responsive to the needs of the community.


... August 18, 2014 at 9:12 am

I wouldn’t say this corroborates a self-defense claim. Rather, it is consistent with a self-defense claim. The distinction is important.

And it definitively discredits at least one and probably at least two eyewitness accounts.

... August 18, 2014 at 9:15 am

Got a couple ideas about option (c), but that will have to wait until I’m at a keyboard.

... August 18, 2014 at 9:26 am

Incidentally, I believe the eyewitnesses now at least partially discredited are the same ones saying the officer was pulling Brown into the driver’s side window by the throat. That’s never made any sense.

First, why would a police officer want to pull someone into his car and onto the top of the himself?

Second, how huge must the cop be to be able the reach up from a car seat, grab a 6′ 4″ 300 pound man by the neck and then pull him into the car? All while seated? The cop must be a T-800 Model 101 terminator sent from the future.

... August 18, 2014 at 9:27 am

So the eyewitness stories in support of the gentle giant shot in the back by the police are discredited. Now to see if the officer’s story holds up.

PD Shaw August 18, 2014 at 10:05 am

Bystander reports need to be taken immediately. People’s recollection of events change the more often they talk about it, without necessarily any conscious desire or awareness. Some people are more susceptible to “drift” than others. And then some people just talk sh*t.

PD Shaw August 18, 2014 at 10:35 am

I think it would be good if the PD increased its minority representation, but it would be a cure-all and it’s not likely to be successful given the lack of financial resources in the community, lack of qualified, interested African-Americans, and more attractive alternative jobs.

I tend toward thinking that small inner-suburbs need to consolidate police forces to be able to attract better employee, but that means less community input.

CStanley August 18, 2014 at 10:48 am

I wonder if it would be possible for small towns like this to recruit black officers from nearby districts, along with some cross training efforts so that all of the stakeholders’ concerns are heard. Black officers from a nearby urban area where there is a better relationship with the community, could perhaps work with people from the local community (to voice the concerns of profiling, heavy handedness, and lack of police accountability) while white officers from the town can express their own concerns (presumably there are reasons for the heavy handed ness, other than racism.)

It would be nice if black leaders would advocate for this sort of thing, and if political leaders in general would see the need (how much of that budget for military equipment could have been diverted to sensible police recruitment and training and community outreach?) would be nice, but it’s unlikely to happen or if programs are developed they will be feel good boondoggles.

... August 18, 2014 at 11:27 am

CStanley, the community thought an appropriate response to this situation was to paint “snitches get stitches” on the side of the store where they THOUGHT (mistakenly it turns out) Brown had committed an act of theft, and then looted it and set it on fire with three employees locked inside. What exactly can they express to the police to make the police more sympathetic to their desire to burn people alive just because?

... August 18, 2014 at 11:29 am

Whatever the merits of the case against the officer, the people of Ferguson are just a bunch of insanely violent people, with more in common with Boko Barak and ISIS than with any civilized people.

CStanley August 18, 2014 at 11:34 am

Ice, my assumption is that there are black citizens of Ferguson who weren’t part of that, and that better leadership from local blacks as well as national figures could have brought out the better folks instead of miscreants.

Of course, the best time for a better class of national black leaders to have emerged would have been, oh, say, fifty years ago. So maybe that ship has sailed (the parallels to Hamas seem very strong to me) but if there is any hope IMO it would be getting back to those basics of building respect among the subset of people on each side who still have some shred of respectability.

Dave Schuler August 18, 2014 at 11:35 am

I tend toward thinking that small inner-suburbs need to consolidate police forces to be able to attract better employee, but that means less community input.

Not to mention that in the particular case of Ferguson county-level policing might well mean fewer black police officers rather than more.

For those of you not aware of it somewhat like Baltimore, St. Louis City is a county of its own and the surrounding suburbs form St. Louis County, a different jurisdiction. Much of St. Louis’s black population is concentrated in the city proper (and East St. Louis which is in Illinois) while St. Louis County is heavily white.

... August 18, 2014 at 11:42 am

CStanley, I keep hearingvthis from the people allegedly not looting and rioting: “All this violence is wrong, but….” It’s just one justification after another.

jan August 18, 2014 at 11:46 am

I guess when there are hostile race relationships, having a more diverse type of law enforcement might improve the optics, giving added assurance to a few people — those who are probably not at the hub of all this violence. However, the crux of the behavior behind Ferguson’s problems seems to be a malignant hatred and distrust of cops. So if you have a black officer, out in front, he’s still considered “the man,” and even maybe an “Uncle Tom” type of “the man,” which could generate more ridicule than calm. There is also a lot of idle time on people’s hands in Ferguson, as those involved with family and work just don’t have extra hours to spend rioting, looting and burning businesses. Consequently, a better economy and more jobs might help fill a void there.

However, as long as we look at color first, and only secondarily one’s behavior, there will always be a rift between ethic groups. Even a very liberal commentator this morning seemed perplexed by how similar the looting, burning and violence patterned itself after the sixties Watt’s riots. He questioned his radio cohorts by asking, “Haven’t things improved between then and now?” The answer, IMO, is “yes.” Nonetheless, race baiters like Sharpton, Jackson, those in the NAACP hierarchy, Black Panthers, as well as other high profile organizations representing Black rights won’t let people forget old wounds. Even black reporters are vigorously talking about how the images projected from Ferguson remind them of the Civil Rights protests 50 years ago!

This kind of festering, though, among races, having the POTUS and the DOJ immediately injecting themselves in ways that keep boiling points high, is not helping. Holder calling for yet a 3rd autopsy seems over-the-top to me. Even the celebrity forensic guy, Dr. Baden, said he had never seen an order tripling the number of autopsies before, in his long career. In the meantime, Chicago notched 7 deaths, 29 wounded since last Friday, while NYC had 15 shootings in 8 hours — all fairly anonymous, and worthy of only scant news coverage as eyes, ears and the WH blessings remain obsessively fastened on Ferguson.

... August 18, 2014 at 11:47 am

Seriously, if they were going after the officer involved in the shooting, or the police more generally, that would make sense. Stealing crates of liquor and hair extensions? Not so much. And yet everyone there is justifying it, even if they’re allegedly opposed to it.

What I’m hearing is

“NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE! Yo, Jamal, see if they’ve got that shoe in a size twelve….”

TastyBits August 18, 2014 at 12:03 pm

A lot of law enforcement officers do not have the temperament for the job. They are too scared, and they do not know how to read people or assess a situation.

When you draw your weapon, bad shit is going to happen. If you holster it, you usually look like an idiot or a bitch. On the streets, being either is not good. If you keep it out, you either arrest somebody or shoot somebody.

If you are too scared and cannot read people, you probably already made a bad assessment of the situation, and when you drew your weapon, bad shit started to happen.

New Orleans is not Mayberry RFD now or thirty years ago. If you make a wrong turn, it is and was rough. NOPD has always had bad cops, and there have been some really bad cops. I am a little familiar with shitheads.

There are any number of ways to handle a situation. If the guy is in the middle of the street, you can tell him to get on the sidewalk because you do not want to have to tell his mama/wife/daughter he got run over by a truck.

You make up crap as you go along. On the streets, life is fluid.

TastyBits August 18, 2014 at 12:22 pm


… Nonetheless, race baiters like Sharpton, Jackson, those in the NAACP hierarchy, Black Panthers, as well as other high profile organizations representing Black rights won’t let people forget old wounds. …

I disagree. It is the white progressives claiming everything is racist. It has made things worse, and it will take at least another generation (or two or three) to get race to the level of sexual preference.

... August 18, 2014 at 12:26 pm

According to the WaPo, Brown had marijuana in his system, although no report on how much.

jan August 18, 2014 at 12:35 pm

A lot of law enforcement officers do not have the temperament for the job. They are too scared, and they do not know how to read people or assess a situation.

I think that can be said for any number lines of work. People usually fit into a job better when they are blessed with natural or environmental attributes that can grease the skids of intrinsically knowing and feeling the job, inside out. When it comes to police work, your points are relevant as to what makes a cop effective or not. I’ve always seen their profession, though, as stressful, requiring one not to be adverse to taking risks, as well as one who can think and assess situations quickly without knee-jerk reactions taking over.

The little I’ve read on the officer shooting Brown, is that he was 10 years older than the man he shot, white, considerably smaller in size, had no priors dealing with controversial police action, and grew up in a home far from being an Ozzie and Harriet setting, which may have made him more street smart and savvy than one coming from a conventional background. All of these details, though, will be sought out by the media and interpreted accordingly.

jan August 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm

It is the white progressives claiming everything is racist.

It’s both, Tasty — race baiters, whose only job skill in life is to agitate and be poster-people for causes, backed up by the white guilt of white progressives claiming everything is racist.

jan August 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm

“According to the WaPo, Brown had marijuana in his system, although no report on how much.”


There are so many similarities between Travon Martin to the current Brown tragedy.

Both were immediately painted as upstanding, almost angelic teens, with their more problematic backgrounds revealed only after racial turmoil had erupted. Both were ‘visiting’ relatives at the time of their death. Both had WH intervention. Both have civil rights implications tacked on that seem to have taken precedence over the actual circumstances surrounding their deaths. Both had policing images or figures that were prominent in news stories and heavily factored in as menacing and causing their death. Both were mired in contradictory, vitriolic stories, with symbolic protests being illuminated more than unbiased, honest preliminary investigations, as to what really happened — Martin had the “hoodie” become his postmortem remembrance, while Brown has the “hands up” as the emotional theme surrounding the aftermath of his death. And, supposedly, both incidents occurred close to the destination points of both men killed.

What makes one death so incendiary, while the vast majority simply disappear into the national vapors?

CStanley August 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm

CStanley, I keep hearingvthis from the people allegedly not looting and rioting: “All this violence is wrong, but….” It’s just one justification after another.

My guess is that anyone who feels unequivocally that they should condemn the violence wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it (and are probably hunkered down in their homes) so I don’t know that there is any way of knowing what proportion of the people are giving those rationalizations.

In addition, I think it’s human nature to become polarized into one camp in an emotionally charged dispute, making it nearly impossible to unequivocally condemn people on one’s own side.

Then there’s the propaganda factor, where people become conditioned over time to hate the “others” and the propagandists are sometimes also provocateurs so that the “others” respond in ways that justify hatred and distrust. That’s why I think the Hamas analogy is apt; it is going to be a long time before our black underclass or the Palestinians are ready to give up their grievances and improve their own situations. That is down mostly to the failure of leadership and then also a bit to the overreactions of the other side to the provocations.

... August 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm

The curfew has been so successful at quelling the violence that they’ve decided to lift it.

Ben Wolf August 18, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Gee, and they say white people always rush to judgement against someone with black skin. If they could see all these fine commenters bending over backwards to avoid that, boy they’d eat their words. Gotta protect them white cops, even if it means calling witnesses liars.

PD Shaw August 18, 2014 at 5:10 pm

If you look at a map of Ferguson, there doesn’t appear to be any place in the city that isn’t a mile from another densely populated city. We don’t know if any of these looters and demonstrators are from Ferguson, or these people telling reporters their concerns.

I haven’t seen any figures, but the turnover from white to black residents suggests something along the lines of a 50% turnover of city residents in the last 15 years. And that’s ignoring the potential of increased turnover of any whites replacing whites or blacks replacing blacks. The idea of “community” in that context is stretched.

Also, the idea that there is something specific about Ferguson that has ignited a protest might be mistaken, as opposed to something originating from elsewhere.

Ben Wolf August 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

So the eyewitness stories in support of the gentle giant shot in the back by the police are discredited. Now to see if the officer’s story holds up.

No, eyewitnesses are not discredited in any way. Results from the second autopsy are consistent with witness accounts that the officer fired at a fleeing Brown who then turned around, got down to the ground and put his arms up, after which the officer CONTINUED FIRING. I notice no one bothered to bring up that the same autopsy concluded no signs of a struggle, as has been alleged in defense of the gunman.

“Fleeing felon” fits quite well with the evidence.

... August 18, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Witness accounts stated he was shot in the back, Ben. That did not happen. And it is hard to be shot in the front of the arm from the front when your arms are over your head.

Also, the narrative that Brown was a gentle giant who never did anything wrong is not true. That doesn’t mean he should be dead, but it does leave open the idea that perhaps he did, you know, do something wrong.

As for defending the police officer, I’ve been pretty clear that (a) I’m no fan of police generally, and (b) it remains to be seen if evidence contradicts his story, which we haven’t officially heard yet.

But please, side with the angelic black giant and the rioters and assume that anyone who questions the premise is a Klansman if it makes you feel better. But personally I’m somewhat interested in what happened at the shooting, and I’m very interested in who is spinning the story and why.

... August 18, 2014 at 5:34 pm

I’ll note too that there was no evidence of a struggle on Trayvon Martin, but there was plenty of evidence of a struggle on George Zimmerman. And I’ve watched enough fights to know sometimes people come out of them looking pretty clean.

Personally, I just don’t bruise. I had one a few years ago and was very surprised. I’ve been in car accidents that broke bones into little tiny pieces, with no bruises or abrasions near the injury. Some people just don’t bruise easily. Maybe Brown was one of us, or maybe there was no struggle. That remains to be seen.

jan August 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm


I’m curious where you’re getting your information.

Even according to the 2nd autopsy, the wounds on the arms were consistent with them being either raised or down at their side. In other words it’s still inconclusive how Brown’s arms were positioned during this fatal confrontation. The head wound, though, was consistent with a head being down, like an individual charging. And, most interpretations of the autopsy have been that all 6 wounds were inflicted on the front, disputing the ‘shot in the back’ claims from eyewitnesses. Brown is now embalmed and awaiting a 3rd autopsy to be done. Why is that happening, when supposedly the first two supported each other?

Gee, and they say white people always rush to judgement against someone with black skin. If they could see all these fine commenters bending over backwards to avoid that, boy they’d eat their words. Gotta protect them white cops, even if it means calling witnesses liars.

I found that comment a rush to judgment all in itself. Statistics show that most black men are killed by other black men, not by white cops. Perhaps that’s why this event has become so frenzied and sensationalized, as it reflects the first police shooting to have occurred in the small community of Ferguson. Although, with all the hot rhetoric being spewed, you would think such incidents were common everyday occurrences there. Furthermore, if you transferred colors from the victim to the cop — the former now being a white youth, and the latter a black cop — would we be having riots, the national guard called out, and Eric Holder on a plane to add oversight to this cop killing?

jan August 18, 2014 at 10:07 pm

CNN airs officer’s side of the story as recounted by a friend of Darren Wilson.

It’s too bad you couldn’t take race out of the mix, weighing the issues of justice or injustice by purely what the circumstances were surrounding the shooting. Racial animus, though, tends to cloud the truth, and you get people telling a version of what happened through the filter of their own prejudices.

TastyBits August 19, 2014 at 9:32 am


Once you become familiar with people and criminals, you learn that most people and criminals are not going to kill you. That is mostly movie nonsense. There are exceptions, but if you want 100% safety, police work is not the best job choice.

I was a white guy from the suburbs looking for a job. My friend convinced me to apply for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. I had no real qualifications, but I wound up being damn good at it.

If you were at Charity during the 1980′s, you might have run across me, but I doubt you were in the projects. In the 1970′s & 80′s, the projects were so bad even NOPD stayed out. We went into them all the time, and we did not have any fancy equipment.

If something did not look/feel right, you backed off. If you give a person an out, many times you can defuse a situation. Once you draw your weapon, you have eliminated many of those outs.

There were numerous opportunities to turn a situation bad. The problem is that you end up with chaos like this. This is these people’s neighborhood, and you try to respect them in their neighborhood. It is not a racial problem it is a power trip problem.

I could go on and on and on, but none of it would matter. The popular narrative is the one that will be promoted and trusted. If you have never encountered real criminals, it is easy to imagine they are ten foot tall monsters with super human powers.

... August 19, 2014 at 9:57 am

If something did not look/feel right, you backed off.

This is pretty much always good advice when out and about. I’ve avoided a lot of trouble following that rule.

Another good one is to let people know you’re watching you’re own back – that is, that you have awareness of your surroundings. A lot of people will only take action against someone if they think they’re going to be able to get a few shots in before the victim knows what’s happening.

... August 19, 2014 at 10:01 am

If you have never encountered real criminals, it is easy to imagine they are ten foot tall monsters with super human powers.

Mostly, but not always, they’re deficient in more than one way.

The one thing to keep in mind when dealing with criminals is that they really don’t care about the rules. And that’s true whether you’re dealing with people like my idiot neighbor (turns out the domestic battery from March was against his elderly father, not his girlfriend or his girlfriend’s mother like I suspected), or guys like Bernie Madoff. It is good to know what kind of criminal you are dealing with, though. I doubt Madoff would have ever cold-cocked anyone. And my neighbor sure as shit wasn’t going to smooth talk someone into giving him billions to steal, LOL!

TastyBits August 19, 2014 at 10:43 am


Your neighbor sounds like a wannabe gang banger, but he could be even more trouble than a real gang banger. A pair of steel toe boots may fix the dog problem, but he may burn down your house.

That is why I never push you on what you should do. I may have an idea of what your circumstances are like, but I do not know the exact details. There may or may not be an easy solution, but you did not sign up for trouble. The police did.

... August 19, 2014 at 2:38 pm

TB, they’re gone. The foreclosure went through, and in fact the woman (they weren’t married, naturally), who owned the house, signed it over for ten dollars and forgiveness of the rest due. That happened on July 2.

He had still been living there (she and the kids would visit frequently), apparently because he had nowhere else to go. Her mom isn’t letting him stay with her, and he’s been disowned by his entire family at this point.

So they kept a dog there to keep the rightful owners from moving their stuff out. Two weeks ago yesterday, the owner’s agent had had enough and had the dog removed. It had been couped up in that house for most of the last year, with minimal care. It was tired, hungry, thirsty and scared, and he came out like a lamb after the man who was there to remove the dog showed it some kindness. The dog has a newer, better home now.

So they’re gone and the house has already been sold. The new owners have already done a lot to fix it up, starting with tearing out the kitchen, at least one bathroom and a bunch of drywall. Just tearing stuff out of the kitchen IMPROVED that kitchen. I don’t know how in the hell they were living there with two adults, three children and multiple large dogs. And I don’t know how DCF hadn’t removed the children, given that they had been over there at various times. (The owner’s agent told me the house was a wreck when sold in 2010 – the former neighbors had said they would fix it up. Yeah, right.)

Anyway, I’ve only seen them twice since then, and not in almost two weeks. They’re gone. Done. History.

So that saga is over.

... August 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm

And in retaliation for all the damage their dogs did to my car, I stole their trash can. It’s got holes in the bottom, and no lid, but I can still use it lawn trash.

TastyBits August 19, 2014 at 3:07 pm


Things might be picking up. You should buy a lottery ticket.

... August 19, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Already tried that. Missed all six numbers.

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