An Illuminating Sat. Night with Key Witness to Ferguson Shooting (Autopsy Update)
Photo Credit: screenshot
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Ferguson, Missouri has been on my mind all week, as it has for most people in the media. On Saturday night, I had just finished reading more articles about the killing and ensuing uproar, assigned followup content for AlterNet to publish, and went out to Barzini's in Manhattan, the local alternative to Whole Foods, to pick up some groceries and a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.
While I was paying, a young, well-dressed women stuck her head into the store and asked if she could buy something there that would only be sold in a different kind of store. We all smiled, as this immediately flagged her as an out-of-towner. We sent her to Duane Reade, two blocks south. As we walked out together, I asked where she was from.
"St. Louis," she said. "This is the first time I've been in New York."
She said she just had dinner at Carmine's, across the street, and had two friends who were still inside finishing up. As we walked back from the drugstore to Carmine's, I asked why she was in New York. She said, "Have you ever heard of Ferguson, Missouri?"
I said, "Well, yes, as a matter of fact—I know an awful lot about Ferguson. Why do you ask?"
"I am one of the eyewitnesses to the killing of Michael Brown," she said. She was in New York to appear on CNN in the morning and probably Anderson Cooper as well.
What were the chances of the stars aligning like this?
Well, of course, I had a million questions for Piaget Crenshaw, which was her name. While friendly and open, she was a little cautious, since she was on CNN's dime. Only 19, she'd come to New York to tell the world her bird's-eye view to help solve the question that is vexing the entire country: How did Darren Wilson come to gun down Michael Brown in the middle of a quiet street in Ferguson?
From my vantage point, up until now, the media had almost exclusively spoke to Dorian Johnson, Michael Brown's friend. But now, with the police chief Thomas Jackson passing out screenshots of Michael Brown apparently grabbing some cigars from a convenience store, accompanied by Dorian Johnson, Johnson as the key witness might not be treated the same way. The appearance of other eyewitnesses is a crucial development over the past couple of days. Piaget Crenshaw's companion eyewitness is Tiffany Mitchell, Crenshaw's work supervisor, who was picking her up when the incident occurred. Both have views from different vantage points, and have appeared together on television interviews.
I started by asking Crenshaw the big question. Did her view of Brown's shooting differ in any way with what Dorian Johnson has said?
"Absolutely not," she responded. "I saw the cop shoot Brown several times in the face, even after he had turned around and had his hands raised. I can tell you the essentials, since I've been interviewed on local TV, by newspapers, and most of this information is already on the Internet, and I posted my video from immediately after the shooting to my Facebook page."
Crenshaw told the LA Times, "I witnessed the police chase after the guy, full force. He ran for his life. They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died. (Read her most in-depth interview here.)
The Big Question
There seems little doubt given videos of the shooting site, those taken by Crenshaw immediately after Brown went down, and the location of the police car vis a vis the body, that Brown was finally shot down in the street some 20 or 30 feet away from the car. Now the crucial question becomes what happened at the first stage with the cop car and Brown to cause the second stage. It is hard to imagine what could have happened in the initial moment of the confrontation that would require Darren Wilson to pursue and shoot Mike Brown several times, including in the head, while Brown was standing in the middle of the street.