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Michael Brown death: Autopsy unlikely to settle dueling narratives

By Holly Yan and Mayra Cuevas, CNN
updated 7:04 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Investigators tell mother Michael Brown did not suffer, attorney says
  • All the bullet wounds were to the front of Brown's body
  • "People believe it plays into whatever theory they have," Stelter says
  • Accounts of what happened vary widely

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(CNN) -- The preliminary results of an autopsy that Michael Brown's family requested are unlikely to settle the dueling narratives that have defined the case from the beginning.

Brown was shot at least six times, all to the front of his body, according to the preliminary results. Four bullets went into his right arm, and he was shot twice in the head.

Daryl Parks, an attorney representing Michael Brown's family, said at a news conference in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday that there is "ample" evidence from an independent autopsy conducted on the teen's body to support the arrest of the police officer who shot Brown.

Private autopsy not conclusive
Autopsy: Teen shot at least 6 times
Pathologist: Brown could've felt pain

"Already based on this limited information, people believe it plays into whatever theory they have about what happened," CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter said.

"Because these shots were all in the front apparently, that might lend credence to people's theories that Michael Brown was going after the police officer.

"On the other hand," Stelter added, "the shots were on the arms (and head) on the front. Does that mean his arms were up?"

It's a case, he said, where more information is not necessarily better information.

Therein lies some of the risk.

"This is bound to escalate tensions," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said. "This is a very provocative report."

Accounts unclear

Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead nine days ago by a white police officer.

His mother asked independent investigators who conducted the autopsy on her son's body whether he felt any pain at the time of his death, according to Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump.

She was told that "he did not suffer," Crump said at Monday's news conference.

Accounts of exactly what happened when Officer Darren Wilson stopped Brown vary widely.

Witnesses said they saw a scuffle between the officer and Brown at the police car before the young man was shot. Police said Brown struggled with the officer and reached for his weapon.

Several witnesses said Brown raised his hands and was not attacking the officer.

Last week, the St. Louis County Police Department said an original autopsy found that Brown, 18, died of gunshot wounds. But the department wouldn't say how many times he was shot or any other details.

"We are not specifying how many gunshot wounds at this point," the department said. "The investigation into his death is still ongoing, and the full autopsy is not likely to be released for many weeks because multiple law enforcement agencies are now involved in the investigation."

The lack of information prompted Brown's family to request an independent autopsy.

A high-profile pathologist

Enter high-profile forensic pathologist Michael Baden.

He has brought his expertise to the stand in a number of closely watched cases.

Baden testified in the O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Drew Peterson murder trials. He was chairman of the committee of pathologists that investigated the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Bringing him in is a very big development," CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson said. "The family wants to know what happened. And why should they just rely upon on what the authorities to tell them?"

Not shot at close range

According to Baden's autopsy, the bullets that struck Brown were not fired from close range, as indicated by the absence of gunpowder residue on his body.

Some of the bullets left several wounds.

One of the bullets shattered his right eye, traveled through his face, exited his jaw and re-entered at his collarbone, according to the autopsy.

The last two shots were probably the ones to his head, family attorney Anthony Gray said. One entered the top of his Brown's skull, suggesting that his head was bent forward when he was struck.

More work to be done

Baden intends to do much more than just the autopsy. He may ask questions about the officer's gun as well.

"Is there only the police officer's DNA on that gun. Or if there was, in fact, a struggle, is Michael Brown's DNA on that gun as well? That would certainly say a lot about whether a struggle for the gun took place."

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has approved another autopsy on Brown's body, the Justice Department said. The autopsy will be conducted by a federal medical examiner.

Opinion: When will Ferguson heal?

Complete coverage of what's happening in Ferguson

CNN's Alexandra Field contributed to this report.

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