FERGUSON, Mo. — Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager whose death at the hands of police has sparked protests around the nation, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy performed Sunday found.
One of the bullets entered the top of Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him, and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for New York City, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.
Brown was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired from the front.
The bullets did not appear to have been shot from very close range because no gunshot powder was present on his body. However, that determination could change if it turns out that there is gunshot residue on Brown’s clothing, to which Baden did not have access.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday the Justice Department would conduct an autopsy, in addition to the one performed by local officials and this private one because, a spokesman said, of “the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family.”
The preliminary autopsy results are the first time that some of the critical information resulting in Brown’s death has been made public. Thousands of protesters demanding information and justice for what was viewed as a reckless shooting took to the streets in rallies.
Brown was shot to death last week in this suburb of St. Louis. The police department has come under harsh criticism for refusing to clarify the circumstances of the shooting and for responding to protests with military-style operational gear.
“People have been asking: How many times was he shot? This information could have been released on day one,” Baden said Sunday after the autopsy. “They don’t do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that.”
As night fell Sunday, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police responded by firing tear gas that sent many of the marchers retreating.
The Justice Department had already deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door to door gathering information in the Ferguson neighborhood where Brown was shot to death Aug. 9 in the street.
At a Sunday rally, State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said he had met members of Brown’s family and the experience ‘‘brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart.’’
‘‘When this is over,’’ he told the crowd, ‘‘I'm going to go in my son’s room. My black son, who wears his pants sagging, who wears his hat cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms, but that’s my baby.’’