Ferguson Erupts as Michael Brown Autopsy Findings Released
Clashes between protesters and heavily armed police officers continued Sunday night in Ferguson, Missouri. Around 9 p.m., officers began firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets. The St. Louis County Police Department claims that protesters were using Molotov cocktails.
This was a little less than three hours before the midnight curfew that Governor Jay Nixon put into effect. Reporters on the scene claim that the protesters were given no warning before the tear gas was fired, and some refute the claims of incendiary weapons. As the standoff intensified, shots were fired in nearby areas—although police scanner traffic suggests that some apparent gunshots were actually fireworks aimed at police and buildings.
In a press conference shortly after 1 a.m., Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson recapped the night’s events, citing reports of “shooting, looting, vandalism and other acts of violence.” Johnson also said the alleged crimes were “pre-planned agitation and aggression, coordinated in many cases.” According to Johnson, reports of shootings began shortly before 8:30, and there were reports at 9:20 of the McDonald’s on West Florissant being overrun and of employees locking themselves in a storage room. “I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response,” Johnson told reporters.
The night was also marred by further attacks and threats to reporters covering events on the ground. Seasoned war reporter Rob Crilly, who has covered conflicts in Sudan, Pakistan and elsewhere for British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, was among a group arrested for a short time.
But worse was yet to come. Tens of thousands of people tuned into the action via two of the more popular live streams, and upwards of 40,000 people watched in disbelief as one police officer threatened to shoot a reporter in the face if he didn’t move. The reporter was Argus radio’s Mustafa Hussein, who was filming with his camera lights on. The police officer told him, “Get down, get the fuck out of here and get that light off, or you’re getting shot with this.” An MSNBC anchor was also threatened with mace.
As all of this was happening, The New York Times dropped the results of a private autopsy conducted at the request of Michael Brown’s family. Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown from the front six times in total, twice in the head.
One of the shots entered Brown’s head through the top, a result only possible if Brown, who was 6 feet 4 inches tall, had his head lowered in some way. “It can be because he’s giving up, or because he’s charging forward at the officer,” Baden told the Times. Another of the bullets entered Brown’s right palm, which could corroborate eyewitness testimony that Brown did in fact have his hands up when he was killed. Baden stressed that there was not sufficient evidence available to him to enable him to reconstruct the shooting.
Attorney General Eric Holder has also ordered a third autopsy (the first was carried out by local police) conducted by the Justice Department. The St. Louis County Medical Examiner not released their own autopsy findings yet.
As the situation shows no signs of letting up, Amnesty International has sent a human rights team to Ferguson—the first time they have ever done so inside the U.S. Additionally, all schools in the Ferguson-Florissant district will be closed on Monday, “due to continuing unrest in some areas of Ferguson, and in the interest of the safety of students and families.” Monday was supposed to be the first day of school.
Some people were arrested for curfew violations.