Witnesses to Michael Brown’s shooting detail his last minutes
FERGUSON, Missouri (CNN) — While Michael Brown appeared to tussle with an officer before he was shot dead, he didn’t enter the police cruiser as authorities claim he did, two witnesses told CNN.
The women’s accounts corroborate that of a previous witness, all three of whom said the officer fatally shot the unarmed teen.
Police have said the black 18-year-old died in a dangerous struggle after trying to grab the officer’s weapon. Not so, say the witnesses.
“It looked as if Michael was pushing off and the cop was trying to pull him in,” Tiffany Mitchell told CNN on Wednesday night.
Mitchell said she drove to Ferguson on Saturday to pick up an employee for work just in time to see Brown tussling at the window of a police vehicle.
She and the employee, Piaget Crenshaw, told CNN’s Don Lemon late Wednesday about Brown’s last moments.
Crenshaw, still in her building, watched the same events from her window. She later shot cell phone video of the aftermath, which CNN obtained from affiliate KMOV.
It looked like the two of them were arm wrestling, she said.
Neither woman, who gave their statements to St. Louis County police, say they saw Brown enter the vehicle.
Instead, a shot went off, then the teen broke free, and the officer got out of the vehicle in pursuit, the women said.
“I saw the police chase him … down the street and shoot him down,” Crenshaw said. Brown ran about 20 feet.
“Michael jerks his body, as if he’s been hit,” Mitchell said.
Then he faced the officer and put his hands in the air, but the officer kept firing, both women said. He sank to the pavement.
After that, Crenshaw hit record on her cell phone. News of the killing spread fast through the neighborhood, and Brown’s uncle walked up to the body to see if it was really his nephew, Crenshaw said.
The video shows police directing him back behind police tape.
State of unrest
Brown’s shooting death, and police alleged stonewalling of details, have lit a fire in Ferguson. Residents say the officer’s alleged actions were a brazen act of aggression, especially when Brown, who was about to start technical college, was unarmed and not threatening.
The city has seen protests every night since the Saturday shooting.
Wednesday was no different.
Police fired tear gas canisters at a crowd near a gas station that has turned into a gathering point for rowdy protests after dark.
News photographers took snaps of young men lighting Molotov cocktails. And a CNN crew found spent crowd-control stun grenades lying in the street.
A tear gas canister landed directly in front of the live television reporting position of Al Jazeera America; the crew ran, leaving its equipment behind. Then an officer later approached the camera and pointed it at the ground, CNN affiliate KSDK reported.
Police officers raised their guns at people heading for the protest, yelling for them to turn back.
As protesters scattered from the thick wafts of tear gas, officers in riot gear marched slowly in their direction to clear the area.
Detentions and arrests
After the night’s clashes, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced he would cancel previous plans and visit Ferguson on Thursday for the second time since the shooting.
And police detained a St. Louis alderman, Antonio French, who has posted a continuous stream of protest video to social media.
Earlier in the day, police detained and released two journalists covering the shooting and the unrest. Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson said he did not know the detaining officers, adding: “We had a lot of different agencies out there.” He said he had spoken to both of them.
Police have asked protesters to restrict their gatherings to daylight hours, after violence has broken out repeatedly after nightfall. Protests during the day have been peaceful.
Protests on Sunday and Monday ended with clashes with police and looting.
Police have made over 65 arrests and detentions since Brown’s shooting. Including the two reporters, 18 people were taken into custody Wednesday, Jackson said.
Officer not named
On Wednesday, Jackson told CNN that the officer who shot Brown had been hit and suffered swelling on the side of his face. He was taken to a hospital and released the same day, Jackson said.
Five days have passed since Brown’s killing, and the public still does not know the name of the person who pulled the trigger.
There have been cries of a cover-up, but authorities said police have received death threats against the officer and his family. And they want to prevent further violence.
Hackers have gone after the personal information of government and police officials, authorities said.
Federal civil rights investigators and the FBI are carrying out their own inquiries into the controversial case. In the town of 21,000, there’s a history of distrust between the predominantly black community and the largely white police force.
“Race relations is a top priority right now and, as I said, I’m working with the Department of Justice to improve that,” Jackson told reporters Wednesday.
Only three of the city’s 53 officers are African-American, and Jackson said he is working to change that. About two-thirds of the residents of Ferguson are African-American, and most of the rest are Caucasian.
Dorian Johnson, who said he saw the shooting, told CNN on Tuesday that the officer who opened fire is white.
CNN’s Ben Brumfield wrote in Atlanta, and Yon Pomrenze reported from Ferguson. CNN’s Don Lemon, Bill Kirkos, Melanie Whitley, Andy Rose, Jackie Damico and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.