Witnesses to Michael Brown’s shooting detail his last minutes

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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.

Civil rights

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.

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  • Joe

    I’m still waiting for the details of the last minutes of all the white crime victims of the endless assault of black on white murder, rape, robbery and so on.

  • Skip

    If these witnesses are correct, his doesn’t look good for the police officer. What did the young man do that justifies using deadly force?

    • ObjectiveNorth

      Uh, I believe trying to steal an officers weapon is a one way ticket to the morgue. Ask yourself, why would a police officer be trying to ‘pull’ a 290 man into his cruiser onto his lap? What possible reason would he have for doing this? This kid just thought he was a big shot and could do whatever he wanted to. He was wrong.

      • Sandy

        Exactly. He showed how much of an aggressive bully he was when he was grabbing the store owner by the neck and throwing him around. Why should anyone believe he wouldn’t do that to the police officer? And you are correct, why in the world would the officer try to pull this very large man onto his lap??

    • Sandy

      What justifies the use of deadly force is his involvement with struggling against the police officer and the possibility that he was trying to gain access to the officers gun. That constitutes the right of the police officer to defend himself and his state issued weapon. I don’t believe a word of what the witnesses say because one of them conveniently forgot to mention how they had just robbed a store, which is a felony. I am all for justice if this was a racially motivated crime but the evidence so far suggests that the officer shot at someone that was trying to use strong arm force against him (just as he shown he was capable of when committing a strong arm robbery against the store manager) and possibly trying to get his weapon to shoot the officer with his own weapon. Where is the proof that this officer had a racial motive for shooting him? Even if he shot more than necessary to subdue the criminal that had just assaulted him, that doesn’t mean he did it because he was a racist. I have not seen one single shred of evidence that this was a racially motivated shooting but what I have seen is people in denial of the facts that have came out, so called witnesses that have fabricated their story, and group of people destroying their own community for their own selfish desire to steal, loot, and destroy all in the name of “racism”. I am all for justice but the officer was immediately condemned as guilty and that is no more fair than what people are screaming is unfair. At least allow the investigation to uncover the facts and stop screaming that the investigation and facts that are being uncovered are not true! Facts are facts! Their are many levels of many departments investigating what happened so stop trying to act like there is some big cover up when that is impossible considering how many different levels of investigation are going on and how many different people are doing the investigation! Just because people don’t like what they are finding as the investigation continues doesn’t make it any less true!

    • Sandy

      He just committed a felony strong arm robbery. Refused to cooperate with the police when the police stopped them. Proceeded to get into a struggle with the police. May have attempted to get the officers weapon from him. (Very doubtful the police officer would have tried to pull the man, any man, but especially a man of his size into the car with him so the weapon either went off when he was trying to get the weapon from the police or the officer shot in self defense while defending himself and the weapon because the man was reaching in the police car). I am just sorry for the family and feel sorry for the people of Ferguson that are now having their neighborhood destroyed by those looting for personal gain and claiming it is in defense of a racially motivated killing that has never shown a shred of evidence that it was racially motivated in the first place.

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