In interviews 28 days apart, Johnson told similar stories about Michael Brown's death
Johnson's interview with FBI, county detective released Friday in latest document dump in case
Many inconsistencies minor, possibly the result of different questions
Many witness accounts don't jibe, including those of Johnson and Officer Darren Wilson
Dorian Johnson, who was walking with Michael Brown before Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown in August, told remarkably similar stories in an interview with county and federal authorities in August and in testimony to the grand jury in September.
The first interview, conducted by an FBI agent and a St. Louis County crimes-against-persons detective, was part of a Friday document dump by the prosecutor who presented the case to the grand jury. Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch initially released grand jury documents in late November, but didn’t include Johnson’s August interview.
That was a mistake, he said in a letter accompanying Friday’s documents.
“It was brought to my attention that I omitted the FBI interview of Dorian Johnson. Upon review of the files, I discovered that I had inadvertently omitted a number of witness interviews and a few other documents which had been presented to the grand jury,” he wrote. “It should be noted that the sworn testimony of these witnesses, including Johnson, was released on November 24, 2014.”
The prosecutor apologized for any confusion and said he now believes he has released all evidence presented to the grand jury that declined to indict Wilson last month. If he finds anything else he unintentionally omitted, he will release it promptly after it’s discovered, he said.
That doesn’t include autopsy photographs, photographs of Brown at the scene and any material that might identify any of the witnesses.
According to an examination of the transcripts of Johnson’s two accounts – delivered 28 days apart – Brown’s friend had roughly the same recollection of what he saw on the afternoon of August 9. He was consistent on many of the broader points:
• The two went to the store to buy cigarillos so they could smoke marijuana. At the store, Brown nonchalantly stole several cigarillos and left the store.
• Johnson was worried about the police after the theft, but Brown didn’t seem fazed, even when Wilson pulled up to them several blocks from the store and told them to “get the f*** on the sidewalk.” Wilson pulled off but quickly reversed and tried to exit his car, but the car door bounced off of Brown and Johnson.
• Wilson grabbed Brown by the neck, and the two engaged in a sort of tug of war before Wilson twice threatened to shoot and fired, hitting Brown, before finishing the second threat. Brown and Johnson took off running and Wilson didn’t immediately pursue them.
• Johnson hid by a vehicle as Wilson exited his vehicle, pursued Brown and fired once, prompting Brown to turn around with his hands up in surrender. Wilson then fired a volley of shots. Brown hit the ground.
The discrepancies in Johnson’s stories were minor and perhaps a product of the questions he was asked.
For instance, in one account, he said he and Brown had spoken to construction workers about getting high on marijuana. In another account, he said a construction worker told him and Brown that he smoked only “wax,” a form of hashish.
Another example is Johnson’s assertion to the grand jury that before he and Brown went to the store for cigarillos, he originally intended to purchase them from someone living in the apartment complex. There is no mention of this in the account Johnson provided the FBI and county detective.
His recollection of what Brown said to Wilson about being unarmed differs slightly as well. Johnson at first said Brown told Wilson he wasn’t armed as they tussled at the car and again before the fatal volley of shots. In his account to the grand jury, he said Brown said it only after being shot.
Johnson may have changed one aspect of his story after his interviewers pointed out he was relaying an assumption rather than an actual eyewitness account.
While speaking to the FBI and county, Johnson said Wilson definitely shot Brown in the back as he fled.
“As he’s runnin’ passed the third car, the officer behind him pointed his weapon with his weapon drawn and he fired a second that did strike my friend Big Mike in his back ‘cause that’s when he stopped runnin’,” he said.
Later in the interview, he reiterated this claim, saying, “That’s why I know he was hit because he stopped runnin’.” And on a third occasion, he told the interviewers, “It definitely struck him in his back. I don’t know verbatim where at.”
When the interviewers press Johnson – did he actually see Wilson shoot Brown in the back, or was he just speculating based on what he saw? – Johnson conceded, “OK, so for the purposes, no. I did not see a hole in his shirt rip while I’m in shock.”
About a month later, before the grand jury, Johnson made it clear he saw Wilson fire at Brown as he fled, but he wasn’t sure if the bullet hit his friend.
“The second time he shot, I didn’t know if it hit him or not, but he kind of jerked and that’s when he stopped running. He just kind of stopped and turned around at the officer,” Johnson said.
Portions of Johnson’s account are not supported by other witness statements, and there are myriad inconsistencies in the witness testimony. Wilson’s statement also doesn’t jibe with Johnson’s.
Among the discrepancies: Wilson and some witnesses said Brown attacked the officer, prompting Wilson to fire twice from his police vehicle; Wilson and some witnesses said Brown fled at first but then charged him; and witnesses varied on whether Brown had his hands up when the fatal shots were fired.