Feds Order New Exam
FERGUSON, Mo. – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes violent protests in suburban St. Louis.
The “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and a request by Brown’s family members prompted the order, Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.
“This independent examination will take place as soon as possible,” Fallon said. “Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation.”
The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting.
Officials said a day earlier that 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson, Mo., neighborhood where Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death in the middle of the street on Aug. 9.
David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s U.S. Attorney’s office, said a federally conducted autopsy “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises” might help that investigation, and that the move is “not that unusual.”
He also said federal authorities want to calm any public fears that no action will be taken on the case.
President Barack Obama, who has been getting regular briefings on the situation in Ferguson while on vacation, also was to be briefed by Holder upon returning to the White House today.
The Justice Department’s latest announcement followed the first night of a state-imposed curfew in Ferguson, which ended with tear gas and seven arrests after police dressed in riot gear used armored vehicles to disperse defiant protesters.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said protesters weren’t the reason for the escalated police reaction early Sunday after the midnight curfew took effect, but a report of people who had broken into a barbecue restaurant and taken to the roof, and a man who flashed a handgun in the street as armored vehicles approached the crowd of protesters.
Also overnight, a man was shot and critically wounded in the same area, but not by police; authorities were searching for the shooter. Someone also shot at a police car, officials said.
The protests have been going on since Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and mostly white Ferguson Police Department, leading to several run-ins between police and protesters and prompting Missouri’s governor to put the Highway Patrol in charge of security.
Ferguson Police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store before he was killed, though Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Brown was a suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.