By Dwain Wellington Rattray
Pride Editorial Operations Manager
FERGUSON, Missouri – Following outcry from the collective voice of Black America, United Sates Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has authorized a second autopsy of Michael Brown, the unarmed African American 18-year-old fatally shot by 28-year-old White police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014.
In a statement this past Sunday, Brian Fallon, spokesman for the US Justice Department said, “Due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family, Attorney General Holder has instructed Justice Department officials to arrange for an additional autopsy to be performed by a federal medical examiner.”
Fallon went on to note that, “This independent examination will take place as soon as possible. Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation.”
Early results of the original autopsy revealed that Brown had died of wounds sustained from gunshot rounds—without the report specifying the number of rounds making contact with Brown’s body.
An Associated Press report says that, Brown’s funeral arrangements have been postponed until the second autopsy is completed. The family says its request to the Justice Department to oversee a second autopsy was to ensure objectivity.
The Attorney General will himself travel to the St. Louis suburb to oversee the investigation the White House said Monday. While US Army National Guard troops arrived to back up local and state police, Holder’s visit was announced. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon activated the National Guard after violent protests on Sunday.
After what some describe as a whirlwind week where the stark tensions of race relations in the US was brought to the forefront of mainstream America with striking clarity, the question is asked: But what are the facts of the shooting? Why are there protests all across America and in some parts of Canada?
There can be no disputing facts, and these are they.
Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson, 22, were walking in the middle of the street, when a Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, confronted them while still in his police cruiser. The young men were told to get out of the street, according to Johnson’s account—with the Wilson using profanities. The men replied that they were, “not but a minute away from our destination, and we would shortly be out of the street,” Johnson told CNN.
Officer Wilson drove away before stopping and backing up, almost hitting the pair, Johnson said. He said he was not sure what prompted the officer to return. Johnson told MSNBC the officer said something to the effect of: “What’d you say?”
Johnson’s says the pair “Were so close, almost inches away, that when he tried to open his door aggressively, the door ricocheted both off me and Big Mike’s body and closed back on the officer.”
Preliminary investigations allege that the officer tried to exit his vehicle, but Brown pushed him back into the car, “where he physically assaulted the police officer” and struggled over the officer’s weapon, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said. A gunshot round was discharged inside the police cruiser, says Belmar. Wilson was later taken to an area hospital, where he was treated for a “swollen face,” according to Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
Johnson says Wilson grabbed Brown’s neck, who tried to pull away, but the officer continued pulling Brown toward him, through the cruiser’s window. Drawing his firearm, “he said, ‘I’ll shoot you’ or ‘I’m going to shoot,’ ” and almost instantaneously fired his weapon, hitting Brown, Johnson said.
It is reported that Brown was shot six times; every shell casing found at the scene are from the Wilson’s service weapon, Belmar said. Witnesses say that after the officer initially fired, the two men ran. No weapon was found at the scene or has since been recovered. Michael Brown was unarmed.
“I saw the officer proceeding after my friend, Big Mike, with his gun drawn, and he fired a second shot, and that struck my friend, Big Mike,” Johnson said. “And at that time, he turned around with his hands up, beginning to tell the officer that he was unarmed and to tell him to stop shooting. But at that time, the officer was firing several more shots into my friend, and he hit the ground and died.”
The developing story has sparked the ire of the collective Black Community and the Ferguson community who continue to call for justice in what is seen as an unjust killing of an unarmed man.
Another side of the coin, and shedding the light of duality upon freedom of speech, is the growing support for Officer Wilson. Though there have been no connection between the two, one group allegedly showing support of the six-year police force veteran is a Missouri chapter of the Klu Klux Klan. However, at press time on Tuesday, other KKK communications indicated that the fundraising activities/support from that group may be a scam, since KKK members are not allowed to speak with media and larger groups within the KKK are Charles Murray, who has started the fundraiser.
Nevertheless, not only extremists are showing support. Social Media is abuzz with activity in solidarity of Wilson, and extoling his virtues as a fine officer and a gentleman.
The pregnant pressure is palpable and at a boiling point, prompting a State of Emergency and curfew—from midnight to 5:00 AM—declaration.
So galvanizing is this incident, it has drawn comments (though guarded) from President Obama, who said: “I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed because … the DOJ [Department of Justice] works for me.” He continued to say, “When they’re conducting an investigation, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other.”
Careful words, political rhetoric and social outrage aside, it is an open letter from Sybrina Fulton— the mother of Trayvon Martin and the founder of the Trayvon Martin Foundation—to the family of Michael Brown (written exclusively for TIME), that encapsulates the collective range of battling emotions present in the community.
It reads in part: “Further complicating the pain and loss in this tragedy is the fact that the killer of your son is alive, known, and currently free. In fact, he is on paid administrative leave. Your own feelings will bounce between sorrow and anger. Even when you don’t want to think about it because it is so much to bear, you will be forced to by merely turning on your television or answering your cell phone. You may find yourselves pulled in many different directions by strangers who may be well-wishers or detractors. Your circle will necessarily close tighter because the trust you once, if ever, you had in ‘the system’ and their agents are forever changed. Your lives are forever changed.”
Naturally likening the incident to that of her 17-year-old unarmed Black son who was shot dead by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012 she continued, “But know this: neither of their lives shall be in vain. The galvanizations of our communities must be continued beyond the tragedies. While we fight injustice, we will also hold ourselves to an appropriate level of intelligent advocacy. If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us. Some will mistake that last statement as being negatively provocative. But feeling us means feeling our pain; imagining our plight as parents of slain children. We will no longer be ignored. We will bond, continue our fights for justice, and make them remember our children in an appropriate light. I would hate to think that our lawmakers and leaders would need to lose a child before protecting the rest of them and making the necessary changes NOW…”