A video that appears to capture the aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson, Mo., seems to include a witness saying that the 18-year-old’s hands were raised in the air when he was killed.
“He had his [expletive deleted] hands in the air,” a man in the video, identified by CNN as a contractor working in the area, appears to shout. The same worker, who declined to be identified, later reiterated to CNN that Brown’s “hands were up” when he was killed.
The video was filmed on a cellphone by an unidentified witness, according to CNN. A police vehicle with its lights flashing and an officer placing yellow tape around the scene can be seen in the distance.
The Washington Post has not confirmed the veracity of the footage. However, the accounts offered by these witnesses and the reaction audible on the tape would seem to match what other witnesses have said in describing the fatal shooting, which sparked waves of protests and a series of chaotic, tense confrontations between police and protesters in the St. Louis suburb.
Over the weekend, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch relayed an account from a worker who said he and a co-worker witnessed the shooting. This worker — who said he had no ties to Ferguson, Brown or Wilson — said he heard a gunshot and saw Brown run away from Wilson’s car. (It is not clear if the person who spoke to the Post-Dispatch is one of the two workers visible in CNN’s video, though the descriptions of where the workers were and what they said suggests that’s possible.)
The worker’s description aligned with those of other witnesses who said that Wilson chased Brown from the car after the first gunshot. The worker also said Wilson fired a shot at Brown while Brown’s back was turned, after which Brown stumbled, stopped, put his hands up and turned around.
However, his description of Brown’s final movements did not clearly answer what could be a pivotal issue facing the grand jury when considering whether to indict Wilson: the precise nature of Brown’s movements in the last moments of his life. Was Brown was moving toward at Wilson in a threatening manner (as Wilson told people), or was he raising his hands in surrender (as other witnesses said) before the final shots were fired? This worker could not clearly say:
Then Brown moved, the worker said. “He’s kind of walking back toward the cop.” He said Brown’s hands were still up. Wilson began backing up as he fired, the worker said.
After the third shot, Brown’s hands started going down, and he moved about 25 feet toward Wilson, who kept backing away and firing. The worker said he could not tell from where he watched — about 50 feet away — if Brown’s motion toward Wilson after the shots was “a stumble to the ground” or “OK, I’m going to get you, you’re already shooting me.”
Still, the same worker told the Post-Dispatch that the 18-year-old was not charging at Wilson, as some reports have claimed. “I don’t know if he was going after him or if he was falling down to die,” the worker said. “It wasn’t a bull rush.”
A grand jury is hearing evidence relating to the shooting. Wilson could face charges of murder or manslaughter — or no charges at all. The law gives police officers a lot of leeway when it comes to the split-second decisions regarding whether they need to kill to save their lives.
Legal experts have said that it’s unlikely Wilson will be charged with first- or second-degree murder, but have said that he could be charged with manslaughter if the grand jury determines that his judgment was flawed or negligent.