What we know about Michael Brown's shooting

CNN
Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 2:09pm

It's a case of he said, he said. The accounts of why a police officer fatally shot Michael Brown on a street in Ferguson, Missouri, this weekend couldn't be more disparate.

One side says the teenager was surrendering, his hands in the air to show he was unarmed, when the officer opened fire. Authorities counter that Brown attacked the officer in his car and tried to take his gun.

The St. Louis suburb of 21,000 was wracked by violence as protesters outraged over the 18-year-old's Saturday shooting faced off with police.

Although there were reports that some demonstrations were peaceful -- protesters held up their hands, as Brown reportedly did, and others demanded a fair inquiry, chanting, "No justice, no peace" -- there were also reports of fires, looting, vandalism and attacks on police officers.

The dispute between distraught Ferguson residents and police isn't likely to be settled soon, as several entities conduct investigations and the FBI reviews the matter.

One thing is sure, though: What police say was self-defense by the yet-to-be-named officer doesn't jibe with the accounts of those who say they saw the encounter.

Here's what CNN has learned:

Brown was spending the summer in the neighborhood with his grandmother Desuirea Harris, she told CNN affiliate KMOV. She described him as "a good kid."

Family members say he was a recent graduate of nearby Normandy High School and was going to begin classes at Vatterott College on Monday.

Brown and a friend were walking to Harris' house, his mother and grandmother said, when a Ferguson police officer confronted them.

This is where the stories part ways.

Dorian Johnson, 22, told KMOV that he and Brown were walking in the middle of the street when an officer pulled up and told them, "Get the f*** on the sidewalk." The young men replied that they were "not but a minute away from our destination, and we would shortly be out of the street," Johnson said.

The officer drove forward but stopped and backed up, almost hitting the pair, Johnson said.

"He tried to thrust his door open, but we were so close that it ricocheted off us and bounced back to him, and I guess that got him a little upset," Johnson told the station.

Still in his car, the officer then grabbed Brown by his neck, Johnson said. Brown tried to pull away, but the officer kept pulling Brown toward him, he said.

The officer drew his weapon, and "he said, 'I'll shoot you' or 'I'm going to shoot' " and almost instantaneously fired his weapon, hitting Brown, Johnson said.

Johnson and a bloodied Brown took off running, and Johnson hid behind the first car he saw, he said. The officer got out of his car.

"He pursued my friend. His weapon was drawn," he said. "He shot again, and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around, he put his hands in the air, and he started to get down, but the officer still approached with his weapon drawn, and he fired several more shots, and my friend died," Johnson told KMOV.

"We wasn't committing any crime, bringing no harm to nobody, but my friend was murdered in cold blood," he said.

That Brown was unarmed is undisputed -- St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said every casing found at the scene was from the officer's weapon -- but he said at a Sunday news conference that Brown was not an innocent victim.

"The genesis of this was a physical confrontation," Belmar said, adding that Ferguson police asked his office to investigate the case.

Without revealing what led to the dispute, Belmar said the preliminary investigation showed that the Ferguson officer tried to exit his vehicle, but Brown pushed him back into the car, "where he physically assaulted the police officer" and struggled over the officer's weapon, Belmar said.

A shot was fired inside the police car, and Brown was eventually shot about 35 feet away from the vehicle, Belmar said.

It's unclear how many times Brown was shot. Johnson said it was more than three, and Brown's mother said she was told he was shot eight times. Some witnesses said they heard as many as 10 shots. Belmar said only that it "was more than just a couple."

The chief didn't explain how Brown got so far away from the car or whether he was surrendering. He said he was declining to disclose certain details because he didn't want to "prejudice" the case.

The officer is on paid administrative leave. There's no word on when authorities will identify him, but Belmar said he has been with the force six years and is "unaware of any other issues that he's been involved in."

He will be required to undergo two psychological evaluations before returning to duty, the chief said.

Meanwhile, Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, didn't need to know his identity to direct some pointed words at the man who shot the son she knew as a "gentle giant."

"You're not God. You don't decide when you're going to take somebody from here," she told KSDK.

CNN's Joe Sutton, Faith Karimi, Mayra Cuevas and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.

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