CNN audio: Is this the moment Michael Brown was shot?

They haven’t verified that the recording is what it claims to be, but with competition for this story among the media so ferocious, go figure that they’d choose to put it on the air and worry about authenticity later. As of last night, the FBI was investigating; between the guy’s IP and the fact that the video file is presumably timestamped, I assume they’ll be able to verify or debunk it quickly. It could be a prank — the man who recorded it seems to be, er, “enjoying” a video chat while it happened — but what he’s caught saying is tame. If you were going to prank CNN by getting them to air something sexually explicit in the name of reporting news, you’d be more explicit than this, no?


If it’s authentic, it tells us how many shots were fired. The man’s attorney tells Don Lemon she hears 11 shots. I hear 10. A forensic examiner who listened to the tape told CNN he heard “at least 10,” six shots followed by a pause followed by four more. The autopsy report from the family’s forensic pathologist claims Brown was hit at least six times, all from the front. That means that he was hit at least twice in the first flurry of six shots heard here, and furthermore that he was facing Wilson at some point during that flurry. It’s bizarre to me that Brown would have turned back to face a man who was still in the process of firing at him at fairly close range, but I don’t know what other conclusion can be drawn based on what we know. The fact that Brown had apparently been wounded before the fateful pause, during which he either rushed Wilson or tried to surrender, is also important. The prosecution will argue that Wilson, having already drawn blood, should have realized that a weakened Brown was no longer as much of a physical threat. Wilson will argue that he felt threatened precisely because Brown allegedly kept coming after he was wounded. A man strong enough to take two shots and angry enough about it to advance on a cop with a gun was lethally dangerous, he’ll say.

Here’s how Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, described what happened to them:

Now, in line with the officer’s driver’s side door, they could see the officer’s face. They heard him say something to the effect of, “what’d you say?” At the same time, Johnson says the officer attempted to thrust his door open but the door slammed into Brown and bounced closed. Johnson says the officer, with his left hand, grabbed Brown by the neck…

At that moment, Johnson says he fixed his gaze on the officer to see if he was pulling a stun gun or a real gun. That’s when he saw the muzzle of the officer’s gun.

“I seen the barrel of the gun pointed at my friend,” he said. “He had it pointed at him and said ‘I’ll shoot,’ one more time.”

A second later Johnson said he heard the first shot go off…

Johnson says he was within arm’s reach of both Brown and the officer. He looked over at Brown and saw blood pooling through his shirt on the right side of the body.

“The whole time [the officer] was holding my friend until the gun went off,” Johnson noted.

Brown and Johnson took off running together. There were three cars lined up along the side of the street. Johnson says he ducked behind the first car, whose two passengers were screaming. Crouching down a bit, he watched Brown run past.

“Keep running, bro!,” he said Brown yelled. Then Brown yelled it a second time. Those would be the last words Johnson’s friend, “Big Mike,” would ever say to him.

Brown made it past the third car. Then, “blam!” the officer took his second shot, striking Brown in the back. At that point, Johnson says Brown stopped, turned with his hands up and said “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!”


According to Johnson, then, the first shot to hit Brown was fired while Wilson was still sitting in the squad car struggling with him, which at least would explain how Brown was hit from the front during the first flurry. Brown then managed to run three car lengths before Wilson — presumably still inside the car — fired his second shot, hitting Brown in the back. We know from the autopsy report that the last detail is false; after listening to this audio, the timeline on the first part seems false too. There’s virtually no delay between the first and second shots fired, certainly not long enough for words to be exchanged between Brown and Johnson. Unless the audio here picks up after the first shot was fired, i.e. unless it begins with what’s actually the second shot fired at Brown, I don’t know how to square Johnson’s account with this.

Here’s what the NYT said about what eyewitnesses have told police:

Some of the accounts seem to agree on how the fatal altercation initially unfolded: with a struggle between the officer, Darren Wilson, and the teenager, Michael Brown. Officer Wilson was inside his patrol car at the time, while Mr. Brown, who was unarmed, was leaning in through an open window.

Many witnesses also agreed on what happened next: Officer Wilson’s firearm went off inside the car, Mr. Brown ran away, the officer got out of his car and began firing toward Mr. Brown, and then Mr. Brown stopped, turned around and faced the officer.

That seems more likely than Wilson squeezing off a bunch of rounds while still inside his car. But in that case, since there must have been a delay of a second or two between the first shot that went off inside the car, Wilson getting out of the car, taking aim at Brown, and then firing again, where’s that delay on the audio? The first six shots are basically continuous.


Exit question: Can anything be discerned from the length of the pause between flurries? Johnson says Brown put his hands up and tried to surrender, saying, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” Wilson’s alleged friend, Josie, told Dana Loesch that Brown taunted Wilson and then rushed him. Does the length of the pause here rule either of those out?

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