April V. Taylor
As Ferguson residents and people all over the country anxiously await the decision of the grand jury on whether or not Officer Darren Wilson will be indicted for the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown, it appears that officials are using leaked documents to prepare the public for an indictment not to be returned. After a series of leaks through Twitter, the most recent leak of an autopsy report claims to corroborate Wilson’s story that a struggle took place at his vehicle prior to Brown being shot to death.
The document was obtained by the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The paper is refusing to release the actual document, but is claiming that Dr. Michael Graham, a St. Louis medical examiner who is not involved with the case against Wilson, claims to have evaluated the documents and determined that the evidence “does support that there was a significant altercation at the car.” Former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch made a statement to KMOX regarding the fact that he believes federal investigators are allowing information to be leaked as a way of “letting people down slowly” due to the fact that an indictment against Wilson is “very unlikely.”
It appears as though officials are justifying Wilson killing Brown based on there being a struggle inside of his vehicle. However, eyewitness accounts state that Wilson stopped Brown and his friend for jaywalking and approached them in an aggressive manner. Dorian Johnson, who was walking with Brown, states that Wilson started the scuffle with Brown by grabbing him by the back of his neck from within his vehicle. Eyewitness accounts also state that Brown was shot fatally in the head while in the act of surrendering, with his hands in the air.
As pointed out by CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos, even if Wilson was justified in shooting Brown at the vehicle, “Ultimately, that officer will have to come up with justification not for firing his gun the first time, but for each and every bullet that came out of his firearm – whether at the car or away from the car.” This may be much harder to do based on the Supreme Court ruling from the 1985 case of Tennessee v. Garner where it was ruled illegal for a police officer to shoot and kill a fleeing, unarmed suspect. The current Missouri Revised Statute 563.046.1 which governs Missouri police officers use of force when making an arrest has not been updated to reflect that Supreme Court ruling which may present another issue.
Protesters and activists on the ground believe that officials are preparing them for the grand jury to not return an indictment based on the recent formation of the Ferguson Commission by Governor Jay Nixon and the observance of tactical teams performing drills in the area. The grand jury has officially been given until January to come back with their decision.