A forensic expert who was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as supporting police officer Darren Wilson's claim that he shot Michael Brown in self-defense, said the newspaper took her comments out of context.
An independent forensic expert, Dr. Judy Melinek, who reviewed the official autopsy on Michael Brown said Thursday that her analysis was misinterpreted in media reports.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published the county's official autopsy on Michael Brown's death Wednesday and quoted Melinek saying that the autopsy "supports the fact that this guy (Brown) is reaching for the gun."
Melinek also said the autopsy did not support witnesses who have claimed Brown was shot while running away from Wilson, or with his hands up.
A sixth shot that hit the forearm traveled from the back of the arm to the inner arm, which means Brown's palms could not have been facing Wilson, as some witnesses have said, Melinek said. That trajectory shows Brown probably was not taking a standard surrender position with arms above the shoulders and palms out when he was hit, she said.
The Post-Dispatch reported that the autopsy supported Officer Darren Wilson's version of events that he first shot Michael Brown during a struggle where the unarmed teenager was trying to reach for his gun. Wilson shot and killed Brown, who was unarmed, in August.
After the Post-Dispatch piece was published, Melinek, a San Francisco-based pathologist told MSNBC that the paper had taken her analysis out of context.
"You cannot interpret autopsy reports in a vacuum. You need to do it in the context of the scene, the investigation and the witness statements. Sometimes when you take things out of context they can be more inflammatory," she told MSNBC.
Other media organizations picked up the story saying the autopsy findings supported Wilson's account of the shooting.
Melinek said she made it very clear to the journalist that she only had "partial information."
According to her written statement to the Post-Dispatch, Melinek said, "You cannot say with reasonable certainty that his hands were up based on the autopsy findings alone."
She told MSNBC that even though there are findings that match up to Wilson's statement, it was still an "incomplete picture" without the scene information, the police investigation and witness statements.
She said, "There may be other witnesses who saw something that are also consistent with these findings."
Melinek told MSNBC that Brown's right thumb was close and in line to the barrel of Wilson's gun when it was fired which would be consistent with Wilson's claim that Brown was going for his gun. But she clarified that his hand could also have been passively near the gun which would explain the injury.
"I'm not saying that Brown going for the gun is the only explanation," Melinek said. "I'm saying the officer said he was going for the gun and the right thumb wound supports that."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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