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Saturday 20 September 2014

Teenager 'shot multiple times'

Published 18/08/2014 | 05:56

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Michael Brown's parents, Michael senior and Lesley McSpadden, at a rally for their son (AP)
People leave a McDonald's restaurant after taking refuge from tear gas fired by police in Ferguson, Missouri (AP)
Police wait to advance after tear gas was used to disperse a crowd during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri (AP)

A Missouri teenager fatally shot by police suffered a bullet wound to his right arm, a pathologist hired by the teenager's family has said.

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This may have occurred when he put his hands up or when his back was turned to the shooter, "but we don't know", he added.

An independent post-mortem examination conducted on 18-year-old Michael Brown determined that the teenager was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to the pathologists and the family's lawyers.

Mr Brown was shot by a police officer August 9 in Ferguson, touching off a week of rancorous protests in the St Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas.

Governor Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson to restore order.

Mr Brown's death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white Ferguson Police Department.

Civil rights activists have compared the shooting to other racially charged cases, especially the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot by Florida neighbourhood watch organiser who was later acquitted of murder.

Both cases have fuelled nationwide debates on the treatment of young black men in America.

Police have said little about the encounter between Mr Brown and the white officer, except to say that it involved a scuffle in which the officer was injured and Mr Brown was shot. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple rounds.

Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells, who assisted former New York City chief medical examiner Dr Michael Baden during the autopsy, said a graze wound on Mr Brown's right arm could have occurred in several ways. The teenager 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 in front of his face.

"But we don't know," Mr Parcells said.

Dr Baden said one of the bullets entered the top of Mr Brown's skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he suffered the fatal injury. He also was shot four times in the right arm, he said.

Family lawyer Benjamin Crump said the relatives wanted the additional post-mortem because they feared results of the county's examination could be biased. Mr Crump declined to release copies of the report to the media, and the county's post-mortem report has not been released.

"They could not trust what was going to be put in the reports about the tragic execution of their child," he said during today's news conference with Mr Parcells and Dr Baden. "It verifies that the witness accounts were true: that he was shot multiple times."

He said Mr Brown's mother "had the question any mother would have: Was my child in pain? Dr Baden shared with her in his opinion, he did not suffer." He also noted that Mr Brown had abrasions on his face from where he fell to the ground, but "otherwise no evidence of a struggle".

US Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another post-mortem examination

The US Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the neighbourhood where Mr Brown was shot.

Mr Nixon called in the National Guard - a reserve military force that can be called upon by state governors in emergencies - after clashes erupted last night between protesters and police, well ahead of a curfew imposed by the governor.

Police said the fired tear gas to disperse protesters in response to gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails.

Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is command in Ferguson, said at least two people were wounded in shootings by civilians.

"These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes," Mr Nixon said in a statement.

Ferguson police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Mr Brown robbed a convenience store shortly before he was killed. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Mr Brown was a robbery suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.

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