An unresolved question in the controversial shooting death of Michael Brown is whether or not the unarmed teen may have charged at Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, giving the policeman reasonable fear to fire a barrage of fatal shots.
But new comments made by eyewitness to CNN, claim the 18-year-old only stumbled toward Wilson after being struck by gunshots fired while the officer was chasing him.
Brown “staggered dead after the second shot, 20-25 feet, to the ground,” the unidentified witness told CNN. “He was like a walking dead guy.”
The witness is one of two contractors who were working nearby on Aug. 9 when a confrontation between Brown, Wilson and Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson escalated into the fatal shooting.
According to multiple reports, both contractors were working outside when they said they heard a single gunshot, looked up from their work and witnessed the shooting. Neither worker, who asked not to be identified in the news stories, knew Brown nor lives in Ferguson. They have given statements to St. Louis investigators and the FBI.
Neither worker said they saw the initial struggle at Wilson’s squad car. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has said Wilson was ordering Brown and Johnson, 22, to get off the street when Brown attacked the officer through the SUV window and reached for his gun. A shot was fired inside the car from Wilson’s gun during the scuffle. Brown and Johnson both ran.
The second contractor told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Wilson chased Brown on foot away from the police SUV and fired at least one more shot in the direction of Brown as he was fleeing.
Both workers gave accounts that largely match the versions of other eyewitnesses, who said Brown stopped, turned around, and put his hands up in surrender, and that Wilson fired multiple shots.
But the worker who spoke to the Post-Dispatch said he could not tell from his vantage point if the teen’s movement toward Wilson after the first round of shots was “a stumble to the ground” or “OK, I’m going to get you, you’re already shooting me.”
Autopsies have indicated Brown was shot at least six times. A private exam commissioned by the family indicated one of the shots could have occurred when Brown was not facing the officer. Findings from two official autopsies are being withheld pending on-going criminal and civil rights investigations.
The contractors’ disbelief regarding the tragedy was captured by a citizen recording video moments after the shots stopped.
“He had his f**n hands in the air,” one of the contractors shouts on the video, which was obtained by CNN.
“Man, he was going like this,” the worker says with his hands raised in the air.
In a phone interview, the contractor told CNN that “the cop didn’t say get on the ground. He just kept shooting.”
The worker’s recollection is the same as handwritten notes he took immediately after the shooting. He shared them with St. Louis’ KTVI-TV.
“[Brown] threw his hands up and yelled, ‘ok, ok, ok, ok, ok,’ ” he wrote. “Police officer (who said nothing) emptied his gun into this guy.”
In a sad twist of fate, the contractor who jotted down what he saw was also one of the last people to speak with Brown, who some have recalled as a “gentle giant.”
The recent high school graduate encountered the worker while walking to a convenience store about 30 minutes before the shooting. The worker says he was admittedly frustrated when Brown approached.
“He told me that he was feeling some bad vibes,” the man told KTVI-TV. “That the Lord Jesus Christ would help me through that as long as I didn’t get all angry at what I was doing.”
The strangers talked for 30 minutes before Brown said he had to get along, but he promised to return and continue the conversation.
Follow Jason Sickles on Twitter (@jasonsickles).