KIMT News 3 – Pictures may speak louder than words, but autopsy reports can only show so much when trying to determine the circumstances behind Michael Brown’s death.
The conflict in Missouri only continues to boil over, and now it’s thanks to the autopsy report which has sparked outrage in the community.
While the diagram of Brown’s fatal injuries helps us better understand what happened that day, it doesn’t necessarily tell us the whole story.
Gunshot wounds to the head were enough to prolong protests over the death of the 18-year-old Brown.
The Chief Medical Examiner for Cerro Gordo and Worth County, Steven Goetz has conducted autopsies for more than 20 years.
He knows just how vital these reports can be in determining the circumstances of death, especially in controversial cases.
“It’s not something you can just put in the computer and get results in a laboratory. You have to reconstruct the scene and the distances. Then you have to try to put together the exact position of the body, how many shots and the number of assailants. That’s were good old forensic science and investigation comes into play,” said Goetz.
An autopsy revealed more than five shots were fired at Brown with two striking his head.
“The autopsy will tell you, or at least help you determine, how many projectiles there were and how far away the assailant would’ve been from the victim,” said Goetz.
With virtually no gunshot residue on Brown’s body, Goetz says it shows the shots had to have been fired at a distance, but it’s not the only conclusion the report has established.
Previous autopsies show there may not have been any defensive gunshot wounds as well.
According to eye-witness accounts, Brown may have been attempting to surrender with his hands in the air after the firearm was shown.
Other witnesses however claim there was a struggle for the weapon of officer, Darren Wilson.
“A defensive one might be somebody holding up their arms. Even though it’s not going shield you from the projectile, it my go through your hand first and then through the body. So we may have more than one injury from one bullet, which could make it very difficult. If you’re putting your hands in the air in the surrender position, then you would not have those defensive wounds,” said Goetz.
Of course, it’s all left for interpretation. So far, three autopsies have been conducted on Brown’s body to help eliminate any disparities.
According to Goetz however, the first report is usually the most accurate.
“Every subsequent autopsy will have some limitations over the one that was done before. Really, the initial autopsy would probably have the best shot at getting all the evidence, because it hasn’t been altered,” said Goetz.
Goetz says he hasn’t been involved with any high-profile cases, like the one in Ferguson, but he has been able to help answer questions surrounding local deaths.
Performing autopsies allows experts like Dr. Goetz to provide peace of mind to families who want to know exactly how their loved one died.
“If the family claims that the person was surrendering, or submitting, that could be very inflammatory. On the other hand, it would be useful to say that the victim was probably not running away at the time, but whether they were in the process of falling or bending over, and it wasn’t the first shot, that’s a lot different,” said Goetz.