Last night, people all around the country waited to hear the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri regarding the Michael Brown shooting. The grand jury decided that there was not enough evidence to indict Officer Darren Wilson, and outraged protests continued through the night in cities across America. The prosecutor who worked on the case released all the evidence in the case to the public overnight.
We aren’t here to pass a judgment on the case because we aren’t lawyers. But we are interested specifically in Darren Wilson’s testimony to the grand jury and what he claims happened. We’ve been reading through his testimony all morning and have collected that information here.
This list largely concerns the location of physical evidence at the scene. Conclusions drawn by Darren Wilson about the mindset of Michael Brown, as well as characterizations of Brown by Wilson, are the opinion of Wilson.
10 Wilson Wasn’t Armed With Another Alternative
Although many police officers now have the option to carry less deadly weapons than their firearms, Wilson testified that he wasn’t armed with a Taser—although he had been trained to use one—for several reasons.
“I normally don’t carry a Taser. We only have a select amount. Usually there is one available, but I usually elect not to carry one. It is not the most comfortable thing. They are very large, and I don’t have a lot of room in the front for it to be positioned.”
Wilson did say, however, that he was carrying mace. According to the testimony, the other things he was carrying on his duty belt didn’t leave room for the Taser. His description of what he was carrying was, in order, “Magazine pouches sit right here, my weapon is on my right hip, I have an asp (baton) that sits kind of behind me and kind of to the right and then a set of handcuffs, another set of handcuffs, my OC spray or mace is on this side, and then my radio and that’s it.”
Carrying a Taser was something that he didn’t normally do; Wilson says that although he was trained to use one, he had only actually done so once, when someone else had brought one to a scene with them.
9 The Intimidation Factor
Several times, Wilson refers to the size difference between himself and Michael Brown. At the beginning of the testimony, Wilson describes himself as 6’4” and weighing around 210 pounds. According to the autopsy performed on Brown, he was the same height as Wilson but weighed 289 pounds.
In his testimony, Wilson states that his first encounter with Brown and his companion was when he saw them walking down the middle of the street. It was after he had heard the call on the radio about the theft, but before he realized that they were suspects.
“The first thing that struck me was they’re walking in the middle of the street. I had already seen a couple cars trying to pass, but they couldn’t have traffic normal because they were in the middle, so one had to stop to let the car go around them and then another car would come. And the next thing I noticed was the size of the individuals, because either the first one was really small or the second one was really big.”
8 The First Altercation
According to Wilson’s testimony, the first interaction he had with Brown was before he realized he was speaking to the suspect from the call that had gone out about the nearby theft of the cigarillos. The interaction was already vulgar; Wilson then says that he realized whom he was speaking to and pulled over.
“As I did that, I go to open the door and I say, ‘Hey, come here for a minute’ to Brown. As I’m opening the door he turns, faces me, looks at me and says, ‘What the f—k are you going to do about it,’ and shuts my door, slammed it shut.”
“I then looked at him and told him to get back and he was just staring at me, almost like to intimidate me or to overpower me. The intense face he had was just not what I expected from any of this.”
The above photo shows the door of Wilson’s Tahoe, which was also presented as evidence. The black dust was used to highlight Brown’s fingerprints and palm prints on the outside of the door.
Wilson’s testimony also included documenting the injuries he says he received when Brown reached through the car window.
“I had shielded myself in this type of manner and kind of looked away, so I don’t remember seeing him come at me, but I was hit right here in the side of the face with a fist. I don’t think it was a full-on swing, I think it was a full-on swing, but not a full shot. I think my arm deflected some of it, but there was still a significant amount of contact that was made to my face.”
Wilson’s condition was well documented after the incident. Photos then shown to the jury include those of bruises on his face, the side of his neck, and the back of his neck.
The testimony states that Brown was punching with his right hand, the hand that was holding the cigarillos Wilson had seen him carrying. When asked if there were pieces of cigar in his car or on the ground, he testifies that he didn’t remember seeing anything. Immediately after, he accounts for the cigars:
“He turns like this and now the cigarillos I see in his left hand. He’s going like this and he says, ‘Hey man, hold these.’ ”
6 Inaccessibility Of Other Weapons
Early in the testimony (as we discussed above), Wilson defined where his other weapons were on his body. While talking about Brown reaching through the car window, he goes on to his state of mind when considering his options, but not before reinforcing his situation.
“I tried to hold his right arm and use my left hand to get out to have some type of control and not be trapped in my car any more. And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.”
Wilson states that he did consider using his mace, but at the time, he had a grip on Brown and was in a defensive position that he didn’t want to give up.
“I considered using my mace, however, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my left hand, which is blocking my face to go for it. I couldn’t reach around on my right to get it and if I would have gotten it out, the chances of it being effective were slim to none.”
He also states that he considered his baton, which was pinned behind him, and also his flashlight, which was on the other side of the car and out of reach.
“So the only other option I thought I had was my gun.”
You can see the flashlight in the photo above.
5 The First Shot
When Wilson drew his gun, he testified that Brown had grabbed it—and at that point, his fears for his own life suddenly increased.
“He grabs my gun, says, ‘You are too much of a pussy to shoot me.’ The gun goes down into my hip and at that point I thought I was getting shot. I can feel his fingers try to get inside the trigger guard with my finger and I distinctly remember envisioning a bullet going into my leg. I thought that was the next step.”
Wilson says he doesn’t remember if he was saying anything, or if Brown was saying anything—he vaguely remembers words, but not what they were.
“I was just so focused on getting the gun out of me. When I did get it up to this point, he is still holding onto it and I pulled the trigger and nothing happens, it just clicked. I pull it again, it just clicked again.”
“I pulled it a third time, it goes off. When it went off, it shot through my door panel and my window was down and glass flew out of my door panel. I think that kind of startled him and me at the same time.”
In the above photo, the small white mark on the armrest is where the bullet entered the door. At this point, Wilson testifies he realized he had blood on the back of his hand.
“He looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.”
Wilson then attempted to fire again, got only a click, then racked his weapon and fired again. That was when he says, “I see him start to run and I see a cloud of dust behind him.”
4 The Blood Trail
According to Wilson’s testimony, he originally thought that one of his two shots while sitting in the car had injured Brown.
“The first shot, judging by his reaction, he went back, I thought it went through the door and hit him in the leg, in the hip, is what I thought. [. . .] The second one I saw the cloud of dust and him running, I knew I missed.”
Brown was wounded, though, shot in the hand. Photos taken of Wilson’s Tahoe show blood smeared across the inside of the door and the handle, seeming to corroborate Wilson’s story that he had been reaching inside the vehicle when he had been shot, or just after being shot in the hand. In the above photo, you can see the bullet hole that went through the door, as well as blood on the armrest and incorporated in the left side of the bullet hole. Wilson states that he never saw any indication that Brown had been shot, although blood was found on the outside of the car as well.
3 Brown Turned Around
After radioing for backup, Wilson states that he got out of the car and pursued Brown down the street past two cars and to a light pole.
“So when he stopped, I stopped. And then he starts to turn around, I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground. He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me.”
Blood stains on the road have been marked as tracing Brown’s movement throughout the incident, since he was bleeding from the hand wound sustained in the altercation at the car. Spatters found on the road seem to be interpreted to corroborate Wilson’s story that Brown was moving back toward him.
“His first step is coming toward me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in a waistband and he starts running at me.”
It was then that Wilson says he started to fire.
“I shoot a series of shots. I don’t know how many I shot, I just know I shot it.”
2 Positioning Of The Shell Casings
According to the diagram of the crime scene, the placement of the spent shell casing supports Wilson’s testimony. He states that he fired twice while he was in the car, and two shell casings were found with the vehicle. He then states that when Brown stopped, he also stopped, shot, and moved backward from his original position; shell casings suggest he was moving.
“Well, after the last shot my tunnel vision kind of opened up. I remember seeing the smoke from the gun and I kind of looked at him and he’s still coming at me, he hadn’t slowed down. At this point I start backpedaling and again, I tell him get on the ground, get on the ground, he doesn’t. I shoot another round of shots. Again, I don’t recall how many it was or if I hit him every time. I know at least once because he flinched again.”
“He keeps coming at me after that again, during the pause I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground, he still keeps coming at me, gets about 8 to 10 feet away. At this point I’m backing up pretty rapidly, I’m backpedaling pretty good because I know if he reaches me, he’ll kill me.”
Wilson continues that Brown kept running at him, leaning forward, and he still had one hand in his waistband.
“Just coming straight at me like he was going to run right through me. And when he gets about that 8 to 10 feet away, I look down, I remember looking down at my sites [sic] and firing, all I see is his head and that’s what I shot.”
1 The 13th Bullet
At the beginning of Wilson’s testimony, he details the gun that he was carrying—a Sig Sauer, P229 .40 caliber. He states: “It has 12 in the magazine and one goes in the chamber, so a total of 13.”
Twelve bullets were found at the crime scene, two near the vehicle and the rest down the street, where Wilson states he began firing after pursuit. While he says that he’s not sure of how many times he fired, he has this to say about the last shot:
“I don’t know how many, I know at least once because I saw the last one go into him. And then when it went into him, the demeanor on his face went blank, the aggression was gone, it was gone, I mean, I knew he stopped, the threat was stopped.”
“When he fell, he fell on his face. And I remember his feet coming up, like he had so much momentum carrying him forward that when he fell, his feet kind of came up a little bit and then they rested.”
According to Wilson, he stopped firing when he knew the threat was gone. This seems to be supported by his gun. When he returned to the police station after the shooting, he secured his weapon, pictures of which were presented to the grand jury, along with a photograph of the magazine and the bullet Wilson hadn’t fired.
“I go in there, I asked [redacted] to go get me a pair of gloves. [Redacted] goes gets me a pair of gloves, comes back, put the gloves on. I grab an evidence envelope, take my gun out of the holster, make it safe. I lock the slide back, take the magazine out, take the one round that’s left in it out. I put it all in that bag, seal it with evidence tape and then sign it.”