Chaos in a police vehicle
By Alberto Cuadra, Lazaro Gamio, Kimbriell Kelly and Scott Higham, Published: Dec. 6, 2014
Grand jurors in St. Louis County heard from a dozen witnesses who said they saw the initial encounter between Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and 18-year-old Michael Brown on Canfield Drive. They provided varying and conflicting accounts of what took place outside and inside of Wilson’s police SUV moments before he fired the first shots at Brown.
The initial confrontation
Wilson said that he tried to exit his SUV but that Brown pushed his door closed and leaned into the window. Wilson said Brown then punched him at least twice. Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson said Wilson pulled his SUV into the middle of the street and opened his door, striking Brown.
Wilson had scratches at his hairline and a bruise on his face, according to police and the doctor who treated him. Wilson’s DNA was not found under Brown’s fingernails or on his right hand. Wilson’s DNA was detected on Brown’s left palm.
Wilson said that he considered pulling his mace from his belt but that he couldn’t reach it. He said he pushed Brown away with his left hand and pulled his pistol from his holster. “Stop or I will shoot,” Wilson said he yelled. Johnson said he heard roughly the same thing. Wilson said he raised his gun and Brown grabbed his weapon and said, “You’re too much of a pussy to shoot me.” Johnson said he heard “cuss words from both of them,” but he said he never saw Brown touch the weapon.
Brown’s DNA was found on the left thigh of Wilson’s pants. Brown’s DNA was also found on the gun. While inspecting the gun, a detective observed a reddish substance, consistent with blood, on the slide and frame of the firearm. Brown’s DNA was also found on the inside driver’s door handle of the police SUV. Investigators said they could swab for DNA or dust for fingerprints but not both. One test would destroy evidence from the other.
The first shots
Wilson said that he pulled the trigger twice inside the SUV but that the gun failed to fire. The gun finally fired twice, one shot striking Brown in the hand. “Without even looking, I just grabbed the top of my gun, the slide and I racked it,” Wilson testified. Johnson said he heard the gun go off. “That was when the officer let go and we were both able to run,” he said.
One bullet was found inside the driver’s side door, just above the armrest. The other bullet was not found. Two shell casings were found outside the car, one just south of the rear driver’s side door, the other along the curb near the SUV.
To rack a gun is to grip the slide and pull it all the way back, then release it. This action manually loads a first round in the chamber and enables the semiautomatic gun to fire.
The bullet grazed the surface of Brown’s right thumb and exited at his wrist. Soot and residue from the gun were found on Brown’s hand, indicating the gun was inches away when it went off, according to an autopsy report.
When guns go "click"
Semiautomatic handguns, such as the Sig Sauer P229 issued to Wilson, can fail to fire if the firing mechanisms are not properly aligned.
For a P229 to fire, the slide must be closed to allow for the hammer to strike the firing pin, which then strikes the bullet.
If the trigger is pulled when the slide is pushed back, the weapon is out of battery and will not fire.
SOURCES: St. Louis County grand jury testimony, witness testimony, forensic and autopsy reports, firearms expert reports
The sequence of events as told by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch based on physical evidence and testimony of dozens of witnesses.
On Nov. 24, a grand jury in Missouri decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August.
Among witnesses of the fatal shooting, descriptions of Brown’s movements ranged from a full charge toward the officer to a move to surrender.
Documents and images released after the grand jury decision identify the physical evidence found on Canfield Drive, where Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown.