Despite its moniker, the Show-Me state of Missouri has been rather evasive when it comes to questions surrounding the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
The college-bound, black teenager was killed by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday, and his death has sparked an onslaught of protests by community members and civil rights activists alike. But despite widespread outrage over Brown’s death, five days later, the public still has more questions than answers.
- Why Brown? Dorian Johnson, an eyewitness to the incident, tells msnbc that as he and Brown walked down the street Saturday towards Johnson’s house, a police officer rolled up to them in a vehicle, shouting “get the f—k on the sidewalk.” According to Johnson’s account, they were stopped for jaywalking. The Ferguson Police Department, however, alleged Friday morning that both Brown and Johnson had been involved in robbing a convenience store. They claim that as the situation between Brown and the officer escalated, the officer had reason to believe that Brown was reaching for the officer’s gun, prompting the officer to shoot. Johnson maintains that Brown never reached for the officer’s gun and was shot with his hands in the air.
- Why the wait? Days after Brown’s death, Johnson had not yet been contacted by law enforcement officials for a witness statement. Thursday, Johnson confirmed to msnbc’s Trymaine Lee that he had finally been interviewed the day before. But the reason for the delay remains unclear and only serves to bolster already-mounting doubts about the police department’s competence and ability to carry out a thorough investigation.
- How many times was Brown shot? It certainly seems like basic-enough information, but five days after the tragic incident, neither the police nor the coroner’s office has confirmed whether Brown was shot several times or just once – information that would be vital to the St. Louis County Police’s ongoing criminal investigation into Brown’s shooting. Meanwhile, according to Johnson, the officer shot Brown at least twice, with the second shot being the one that ended Brown’s life. Shortly after Brown’s death, his family members said they were told he was shot eight times.
- Autopsy results? The St. Louis County Police on Tuesday released preliminary results of an autopsy conducted on Brown’s body which revealed that Brown died as the result of an unspecified number of gunshot wounds. The autopsy was performed by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office on Sunday, the day after Brown was shot. But police won’t release any further details of the autopsy, pending the results of toxicology tests – something Jamal Bryant, a megachurch pastor from Maryland, calls unfair. “We cannot in any good cause ask for a toxicology report of Mr. Brown if we don’t have a toxicology report of the officer. We don’t know if he was high. We don’t know if he was drunk,” Bryant told The Guardian.
- Why tear gas? A reportedly peaceful protest in Ferguson on Wednesday turned violent when, as “darkness descended, forces moved in, announcing on a bullhorn that the gathering was no longer peaceful and began firing tear gas and stun grenades, choking protesters lined along a main thoroughfare,” according to msnbc’s Trymaine Lee who was at the scene. So, why did officers dressed in riot gear use tear gas and fire rubber bullets at the allegedly nonviolent crowd? “We have to respond to deadly force,” Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said at a press conference Thursday, adding that police acted Wednesday night after protesters threw rocks, bricks, bottles and a Molotov cocktail at them. Jackson also alluded to gunshots being fired but did not specify if any weapons or bullet casings were retrieved from the scene. Meanwhile, msnbc’s Trymaine Lee says that from his vantage point, there was no sign of violence among the protesters, and that the police appeared to be provoked by the sound of a soda bottle being thrown at and hitting a vehicle.