Ferguson teen shot six times, family pathologists say

Loic Hofstedt

FERGUSON (United States) (AFP) - Michael Brown, the black teen whose killing by a Missouri police officer has prompted more than a week of unrest, was shot at least six times, pathologists retained by his family said Monday.

The Missouri National Guard was poised to enter the restive St Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday after another night of violence that saw police fire tear gas at crowds ahead of a midnight curfew.

"Six bullets struck, and two may have re-entered" the 18-year-old's body, said forensic pathologist Michael Baden, tasked by Brown's family and lawyers to conduct an independent examination.

One of the bullets hit the top of Brown's head, another hit his eye, while others were located on his right arm, Baden told a press conference in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson.

"All of the gunshot wounds could have been survivable, except the one at the top of the head," he said, amid growing local demands that the police officer involved, Darren Wilson, be arrested.

Baden said he had found no evidence of an alleged struggle between Brown and the officer, who is said to have been hurt in the incident, but added that he had not examined Wilson.

The absence of gunpowder on Brown's body indicated that the muzzle of the gun was probably at least a foot or two -- or as much as 30 feet -- away, Baden added.

The respected former New York City chief medical examiner stressed his findings were preliminary and that he need to see X-rays taken by local coroners just before the bullets were removed.

Brown was shot and killed in broad daylight on a residential street in Ferguson on August 9, angering residents of a majority African-American suburb policed by an overwhelmingly white force.

His death and the protests that ensued, renewed a national debate on race and law enforcement, and prompted President Barack Obama's administration to open a civil rights investigation.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon directed the National Guard to "assist ... in restoring peace and order" and put the part-time soldiers under the unified police command in this town of some 21,000 people.

Nixon's came after riot-equipped police used tear-gas to disperse Sunday's protest, which deteriorated into mob violence and looting before a midnight curfew imposed for the second night in a row.

At least two people sustained gunshot wounds amid the chaos, police said.

- 'Our hands are up' -

Supported by armored vehicles, police also fired rubber bullets after "Molotov cocktails were thrown," according to Captain Ron Johnson, the state highway patrol officer charged with restoring order.

"There were shootings, looting, vandalism and other acts of violence that clearly appear not to have been spontaneous but premeditated criminal acts designed to damage property, hurt people, and provoke a response," he said.

"Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response," said Johnson, an African-American native of the area who was hailed last week as a moderating force after he replaced local commanders.

Some of the demonstrators carried signs protesting police brutality. Many marched peacefully with their hands up in the air, but others taunted police and threw back tear gas canisters.

"We were walking up peacefully towards the command center to kneel in protest in front of the police, to say 'our hands are up'," said Lisha Williams.

Brown's relatives accused police of smearing their son's character after he was belatedly named Friday as a suspect in the theft of a box of cigars from a convenience store less than half an hour before he died.