Newly released video allegedly showing the reaction of two new witnesses right after the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown suggests what nearly a half-dozen earlier witnesses have claimed — that the unarmed teen was shot by a police officer while his hands were held up in surrender.
The video recording, obtained by CNN and aired on Wednesday night, captures the witnesses in what appears to be the immediate aftermath of Brown’s killing.
In the video, one of the witnesses is seen raising his arms in the air and saying, “Man, he was going like this,” suggesting that Brown’s hands were raised as Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fired on him. The new witnesses, both of whom are white construction workers who’d been working nearby when the shooting occurred, are not Ferguson residents and had no connection to Brown or his family.
One of the men told local news station KTVI that he starting hearing “pops” and that he looked over and saw Brown “staggering and running.”
“And when he finally caught himself, he threw his hands up and started screaming, ‘OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK,’” the man said.
The footage apparently shows the workers’ real-time reaction to the shooting.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, said the significance of the new evidence could not be overstated.
“It’s of paramount significance, not because the construction workers were not Ferguson residents and not because the construction workers were Caucasian,” Crump told msnbc. “It’s of paramount significance because it’s a contemporaneous recording of their immediate reaction and outrage and raw emotion of what they’d just witnessed.”
Crump said the video, legally, is nearly as good as having a recording of the shooting itself. At the time of the taping, the workers appear to be unaware that they are being recorded. “This is like a live play-by-play of what just happened. And so it is the best evidence you can have other than the video of the shooting itself,” the attorney said.
The two witnesses look to be standing about 50 feet from where Brown was shot. Neither man saw the initial confrontation between Brown and officer Wilson, according to CNN.
Police say a struggle began when Brown reached for Wilson’s gun, and that the officer fired a single shot from inside his car as the men fought. One of the witnesses to the shooting, a friend of Brown’s, said that Wilson stopped the two of them in the street and ordered that they get out of the street and onto the sidewalk. He added that, at some point, Wilson reached through his driver’s side window and grabbed Brown by the neck. The witness, Dorian Johnson, said that Brown fought to get free and was shot once in the process. Johnson and other witnesses then say that as Brown broke free and ran away from the officer, the officer fired multiple shots at Brown. Then, nearly all of the witnesses say, Brown turned to the officer with his hands up, at which point Wilson fired several more shots.
This latest account corroborates what the previous witnesses have said.
“He had his [expletive] hands up!” one of the workers yells out in the clip, physically lifting up his arms, ostensibly mimicking what he saw. “The cop didn’t say get on the ground. He just kept shooting,” one of men told CNN.
“He was walking like a dead guy,” one of the witnesses said, referring to Brown.
The killing almost immediately set off outrage among residents, as the police left Brown’s body uncovered in the street for hours. Brown, 18, was African-American. Wilson is white. Brown was unarmed at the time of the killing and many of his family’s supporters believe race was central to the incident and the manner in which law enforcement has handled the investigation into the teenager’s death. Wilson has not been arrested or charged and has remained on paid administrative leave.
The two contractors told CNN they left the scene not long after police started putting up crime scene tape because they feared for their safety since they were some of the only white people in the area.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the video, which has not been authenticated by NBC, “could change everything.”
Toobin, who cautioned that all of the witness testimony still needs to be taken into account, says the video suggests “what seems to be cold-blooded murder,” and he believes Wilson will be in a “world of trouble” if the video is verified.
A grand jury is currently hearing evidence to determine whether or not to indict WIlson in the death of Brown. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has opened their own federal investigation into the Brown case.
Crump said the video of the workers’ reactions sits at the crux of the case and the calls for Wilson’s arrest.
“I think there’s enough probable cause that exists to indict the officer now,” Crump said. “We don’t need this grand jury.”