October 24, 2014

Autopsy of St. Louis teen claimed to support two versions of shooting

Two sides say a private autopsy of the 18-year-old teen fatally shot by an off-duty St. Louis Police officer October 8 backs up their positions.

Doctor Cyril Wecht presents the findings of the autopsy he conducted on the body of Vonderrit Myers, Junior.  (photo credit; KTVI)

Doctor Cyril Wecht presents the findings of the autopsy he conducted on the body of Vonderrit Myers, Junior. (photo credit; KTVI)

The family of Vonderrit Myers, Junior, paid forensic pathologist Doctor Cyril Wecht to conduct the autopsy. He found that Myers was shot eight times.

“Six of the eight gunshot wound were directed posteriorly. They struck Mister Myers on the rear part of his body,” says Wecht. “The other two shots were frontal but toward the side, not directly frontal.”

It was one of those nearly frontal wounds, on the right side of the head, that Wecht says killed Myers.

“The head wound would have rendered Vonderrit immediately unconscious,” says Wecht. “The brain would have been extensively damaged. There is no way in the world that Vonderrit would have been able to talk, move, think, act, or do anything at all once that head would was sustained.”

Wecht says the findings indicate Myers was being shot while fleeing up a steep hill, though he later said the leg wounds could have been suffered while Myers was lying down.

Lawyers for Myers’ family say the findings support their claim that he was fleeing and begging for his life when he was shot.

The Attorney for the officer says the findings match his story; that Myers shot at him first and that Myers fell to his side, suffering the leg wounds then when the officer returned fire. He says the fatal shot came after Myers refused the order to drop his gun.

Police have said forensic evidence backs up the officer’s claim that Myers shot at him at least three times before the officer returned fire, and say a gun was recovered at the scene that matched three bullets recovered from the ground near where the officer was during the incident.

The final reports from both the private and the city’s autopsies are still being compiled.

Earlier story:  St. Louis officer fatally shoots one, angry protests follow

Alderman, Justice Department slam Michael Brown investigation leaks

A stream of evidence in the Michael Brown shooting investigation has been leaking out in recent days, and that’s alarming some St. Louis community leaders.

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French

People claiming to know officer Darren Wilson’s version of what happened when Michael Brown was shot have talked to the media, and now the second of three autopsy reports has been released. St. Louis Alderman Antonio French says even with everything else that’s been reported to date, there is still no knowing what happened that day.

“What I’m alarmed by is the way this is being tried in the public and that information is being leaked out and we’re not getting a clear picture of everything,” says French.

Instead, he tells CNN, his community is still waiting for the opportunity to move on.

“I think one of the things that we’ve asked for from the beginning is that the only way that this thing can happen in a way that actually gives the community what they’re asking for is a public trial,” says French, “and I’m concerned that the way this information is being leaked out that it really does not give much credence to the process and it doesn’t restore faith in the process.”

French says if officer Darren Wilson is not indicted, he worries about what will happen not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term.

“Our community has been really ripped apart and we’ve got a lot of healing to do. We have people that need to come together in the end of the day because we all have to live together,” says French. “The only way that we’re going to lay that groundwork for a better future I think is to really do this in a fair way that gets all the information out there and then most reasonable people can feel somewhat satisfied that the process worked, and I don’t think we’re seeing that right now.”

French wants to know who’s behind the leaks and to have them stopped.

Bob McCulloch and Attorney General Holder should be launching investigations into who is leaking this info. Police? Attorneys? Jurors?

However a St. Louis County prosecutor’s office spokesman tells the Los Angeles Times the leaks don’t appear to be coming from his office or the grand jury, and says his office won’t be looking into them.

“There’s really nothing to investigate,” Magee told the times. “We don’t have control over anybody leaking anything. All we can control is people in our office and the grand jury.”

Magee further said that his office can’t force journalists to divulge their sources and suggested the information could be coming from federal officials.

The Justice Department tells the Times that’s not happening.

“The department considers the selective release of information in this investigation to be irresponsible and highly troubling,” the department told the Times in a statement. “Since the release of the convenience store footage, there seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case.”

The statement refers to the release of footage from a convenience store security camera that apparently shows Brown participating in theft of cigars from the store and the intimidation of the clerk, not long before the shooting.

Disaster declaration sought for 20 MO counties hit by Sept storms

Governor Nixon has asked the federal government to declare 20 counties in northern Missouri a disaster area, due to severe storms September 9 and 10. The declaration would allow local governments to seek assistance for the costs of response and recovery.

File photo of flooding near Waynesville.

File photo of flooding near Waynesville.

Nixon says strong winds damaged schools and other public buildings and some areas experienced days of flooding. He says assessments revealed damage to roads, bridges, and low water crossings. During the storms’ peak impact, 70 roads were closed including parts of I-29 and U.S. 36.

In a statement Nixon writes, “The response and recovery costs to the affected communities – some of which had already been hit by damaging severe storms in May and June – will be extensive, and federal assistance with these costs will help the entire region rebuild and move forward.”

Nixon is asking for the disaster declaration in Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Daviess, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Knox, Lewis, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Mercer, Nodaway, Putnam, Ralls, Shelby, Sullivan and Worth counties.

Results of another Michael Brown autopsy released

Michael Brown, Junior, was shot in the hand at close range and had been using marijuana, according to the official autopsy report, now obtained and reported on by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Dispatch had two experts review the report. They tell the paper the findings could support the report that Brown was reaching for the gun of officer Darren Wilson. They also say the placement of the other gunshots Brown suffered do not support the claim by witnesses that he had his arms up in surrender when he was shot.

The findings conflict in at least one respect with an autopsy released by the family of Brown and conducted privately. In that one, a forensic pathologist said none of Brown’s wounds appeared to have been from shots fired at close range.

Results from a third autopsy conducted as part of the federal investigation have not been released.

Nixon: new ‘Ferguson commission’ will seek lessons from unrest

Governor Jay Nixon has announced the creation of an independent commission that will study the unrest in Ferguson since the shooting of Michael Brown August 9 and make recommendations for how to make progress on the issues behind it.

Governor Jay Nixon announces the Highway Patrol will take over security in Ferguson (screencap courtesy of KSDK)

Governor Jay Nixon

He plans to announce its membership next month.

Nixon says the commission will have three main goals: to conduct a thorough, wide-ranging and unflinching study of the underlying social and economic conditions underscored by the unrest in the wake of Michael Brown’s death, to tap into expertise needed to address key concerns identified by the Commission, from poverty and education to governance and law enforcement, and to make specific recommendations for making the St. Louis region a stronger, fairer place for people to live.

Nixon announced the Commission today at St. Louis Community College-Florissant.

“How do we move on from shouting past one another in the streets, on the internet and the evening news?” Nixon asked. “Some people would tell you that the choice is one thing or the other: trust or force, speech or silence, black or white. It is far more complicated than that.

“Legitimate issues have been raised by thoughtful voices on all sides. Shouting past one another will not move us to where we need to go. Outsiders eager to grab the national spotlight and push their own agendas do not have the best interests of this community, this state or the nation at heart. We need to solve these problems ourselves, we need to solve them together, and we need to act now,” Nixon said.

Nixon stresses the commission will not investigate the Michael Brown shooting, and says the responsibility for that investigation remains with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney and grand jury, the FBI, the federal Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney General.

“Whatever the outcome of their investigations, we must move forward together,” says Nixon.

He included a stern message that seemed targeted at those who have resorted to looting and property damage, or might in the future.

“More acts of violence and destruction like those we have experienced at times during the past 73 days will not be tolerated, and will only hurt the communities that have suffered the most at the very time they need restoration and healing.

“Our faith, our laws, and the principles on which our democracy was founded demand more of us,” said Nixon.

He asks those interested in joining the Ferguson Commission to apply on the state’s website.

Nixon has been harshly criticized by some for his handling of the situation in Ferguson, including several state legislators from the region. Some accused him of being “missing in action” during the early days of unrest.

The governor has defended his actions and says he was involved from “very early in the process.”  He also created the new Office of Community Engagement to look for solutions to problems regarding race, educational and economic opportunities.