Michael Brown could have survived five of the six gunshots fired at him by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, but the last shot to the top of his head killed him, a privately conducted autopsy found.
The two shots that hit Brown in the head were likely among the last that hit him and traveled from the back of his head to the front, indicating that Brown's head was tilted forward, either because he was bending over or falling over, forensic expert Dr. Michael Baden said at a news conference today. Brown had abrasions on his face from where he "fell flat down unprotected," Baden said.
"The kill shot is right here, at the apex of his head," attorney Darrell Parks said.
A gunshot wound to his arm could show either that he was hit while walking away from the shooter with his back to the officer, or that he was facing the shooter with his arm up, either in a surrender position, defensive position, or other motion, Baden said.
Brown likely did not suffer, Baden said. The shot to the top of his head would have rendered him unconscious immediately, he said.
"Michael Brown's mom had the same question as any mother would have, which is was my child in pain?" attorney Benjamin Crump said. "And Dr. Baden shared with her in his opinion he did not suffer."
"His mother also wanted to ask a question that neither Dr. Baden nor the lawyers could answer, which is what else do we need to give them to arrest the killer of my child?" Crump said to applause in the church where the press conference was held.
The St. Louis County medical examiner's office confirmed that the cause of death was gunshot wounds to the head and chest, and said that a toxicology report was complete. But the county medical examiner would not release any details from the autopsy or the toxicology report.
Baden said that in his experience, it calms the family and community to have the official autopsy report released right away after an incident.
"We found that the sooner the information goes out, the family is talked to, the family has a right to know how their loved one died, this calms the community and the family concerns over a cover up and not getting told truth," Baden said.
"There are very simple things that are found on day one of the autopsy, and the next day the autopsy report comes out to answer these types of questions, such as how many bullet wounds and most importantly did my loved one suffer," Baden said. "We can answer those questions on day one."
The autopsy was performed Sunday at the request of Brown’s family.
Baden, a former New York City chief medical examiner, was hired to perform the private autopsy along with Prof. Shaun Parcells for the Brown family after St. Louis County would not release the results of its autopsy.
The attorneys representing Brown's parents criticized the St. Louis authorities for not releasing autopsy results and said that the results show evidence that the shooting officer, Darren Wilson, should be arrested.
"There are two shots I want you to focus on today for my purpose because they show the bullets were moving in a back-to-front direction," family attorney Darrell Parks said. "The kill shot is right here, at apex of his head, and it is a clear back-to-front position. The second shot to the head is a little dot right by his hairline and came out by the eye. That’s very important because it shows a back-to-front motion."
"It supports what witnesses said about him trying to surrender, that he had his head in a downward position," Parks said. "The officer needs to be arrested. Why would (Brown) be shot in the very top of his head? A 6-foot-4 man, it makes no sense. We believe those two things alone are ample evidence for the officer to be arrested."
In addition to the two shots to the head, Brown was shot four times in the right arm and chest.
Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a federal medical examiner to perform a separate autopsy because of the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
The St. Louis County Medical Examiner's office has also conducted an autopsy, concluding that Brown died of gunshot wounds but releasing no details.
The shooting death of Brown has sparked riots and protests in the St. Louis suburb.