From: Chris Plante
Subject: Air Force doctors 'rule out the possibility of a gunshot wound' to Brown's head
The U.S. Air Force Friday slapped back allegations that Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who was killed in an April 3, 1996, plane crash in Croatia, suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
Some press reports have quoted a military medical examiner, Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell (USAF), as saying that he believed Brown had been shot in the head with what appeared to be a .45 caliber handgun.
An Air Force spokesman told CNN that Cogswell did not personally examine Ron Brown's body and formed his opinion only from x-rays and exam records.
An Air Force statement released at the Pentagon rebuts that assertion:
"Recent reports suggest that Brown could have been shot prior to the accident and that an autopsy should have been performed," the release said.
"The reports also said an x-ray of Brown's skull contains metal fragments consistent with a gunshot wound." The release goes on to say that "forensic evidence" and physical examination "rule out the possibility of a gun shot wound."
The same statement quoted the military doctor that actually examined Brown's body. Col. William T. Gormley (M.D.), is quoted as saying in the statement, "Due to the initial appearance of Brown's injuries, we carefully considered the possibility of a gunshot wound. However, scientific data, including x-rays, ruled out that possibility."
The Air Force says that "the alleged 'bullet fragments' were actually caused by a defect in the reusable x-ray film cassette," adding, "medical examiners took multiple x-rays using multiple cassettes and confirmed this finding."
Spokesmen have told CNN that no bullet or bullet fragments were found in Brown's body and that there was nothing comparable to an exit wound.
"Gormley confirmed there was no gunshot wound, and therefore concluded there was no need for further examination," the statement read. "Had there been suspicion regarding the nature of Brown's death -- or the death of any other person on that aircraft -- medical examiners would have pursued permission to perform a full internal examination," or autopsy.
A senior Pentagon official called the recent allegation "ludicrous."
Dr. Gormley is the Assistant Armed Forces Medical Examiner at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Cogswell is also a medical examiner in the same facility.
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