IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Two key details about Michael Brown's death are still unknown

For all that is known about Michael Brown's shooting death at the hands of a Ferguson police officer Aug. 9, two key details remain shrouded in speculation.
People protest the death of Michael Brown on Aug. 18, 2014 in Ferguson Mo., for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo.
People protest the death of Michael Brown on Aug. 18, 2014 in Ferguson Mo.

The Ferguson Police Department never generated an incident report on the shooting death of Michael Brown, the St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office revealed Thursday. The case was turned over to county police almost immediately after the unarmed 18-year-old was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, the prosecutor's office said, and no additional details or narrative will be forthcoming while a grand jury is empaneled to review the case and decide whether to indict the officer.

The absence of an incident report on the altercation that led to Brown's death is just one of several key pieces of information that have remained withheld from the public, leading to anonymously-sourced speculation as to the details of the case and fueling ongoing unrest in the city of Ferguson, a majority-black suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.

Here's what else we still don't know:

How was Officer Wilson injured? Law enforcement officials say Wilson sustained an injury during a struggle with Brown that led the officer to use deadly force against the teen, but they haven't revealed any details or evidence of his alleged injury. NBC News has confirmed that Wilson was treated at an area hospital after the altercation, but it is unclear how serious his injury or injuries were, or if he was admitted to the hospital. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office has said that Wilson's medical records will not be released to the public while the grand jury considers the case.

The decision to not release those medical records, along with the lack of an incident report, has fueled speculation about the nature and extent of Wilson's injuries. An anonymous source close to the police department told that Wilson's face was "all swollen on one side" and that "he was beaten very severely," echoing two other allegedly well-placed sources -- also anonymous -- quoted by a right-wing blog as saying Wilson suffered an "orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket."

Releasing Wilson's medical records could potentially quell the unrest in Ferguson if they corroborated the claims of law enforcement that Wilson feared for his life when he shot and killed Brown. The decision to withhold that information while the grand jury investigates the shooting means the media and public could be left in the dark for weeks or even months.

Roses line the street where Mike Brown was shot and killed, Aug. 21, 2014.
Roses line the street where Mike Brown was shot and killed, Aug. 21, 2014.

What was Brown doing when he was shot? Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown when he was killed, told msnbc that his friend was facing Wilson with his hands in the air when the officer fired the fatal shot. Several other witnesses have since given similar accounts, including one neighborhood woman, Tiffany Mitchell, who told MSNBC she was just feet away from the scene when the altercation began. 

Ferguson police tell a different story, saying Brown lowered his hands and moved aggressively toward Wilson, prompting the officer to use deadly force. One witness told The New York Times that he saw Brown turn and "stumble toward the officer" after Wilson fired several shots, "but not rush at him." Johnson and Mitchell, however, both said Brown was standing with his hands in the air when he died.

Law enforcement officials have yet to release a detailed chronology of the shooting, nor has Wilson released a statement of any kind. That could give Ferguson police an advantage during criminal proceedings, MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom has argued. "He should have given a statement immediately after the shooting,” Bloom said Tuesday on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” “Now, a week and a half later, he’s had an opportunity to review the autopsy results, probably multiple autopsy results, the statements of all of the witnesses and conform his story to what they have said."

The slow release of information about the shooting -- some of which, like surveillance video footage of Brown engaging in an alleged convenience store robbery, or the fact that he had traces of marijuana in his system when he died -- has been of dubious legal relevance to the teen's death, sowing further mistrust toward law enforcement among angry Ferguson residents. Lawyers for the Brown family have accused the police of a “character assassination attempt.”