The news Sunday night that a Ferguson, Missouri, cop shot an unarmed black teenager at least six times may intensify the public’s outrage, but it’s not unusual for the police to hit a suspect multiple times.
To be sure, there are several troubling results from a family-ordered autopsy of 18-year-old Michael Brown — including the findings that officer Darren Wilson shot him from behind and above, according to CNN. That autopsy also didn’t find signs of a struggle, CNN notes, which conflicts with the police account that Brown was reaching for Wilson’s gun.
But the public should not focus too heavily on the number of times Brown was shot, two experts on police force told us. It sounds excessive when you hear that a police officer shot a suspect multiple times, but these experts say cops often have very good reasons for doing so.
“Hollywood has us believing that if you shoot someone once or twice, they fall,” former police chief Chuck Drago told BI over the phone. But, he added, “I’ve seen people shot many times, and they don’t even slow down.”
Police often keep firing because they don’t even realise they hit the person, Drago says. Cops are also taught to fire three times before reassessing the threat — a procedure known as “triple tap,” according to Dr. Daniel Kennedy, a forensic criminologist.
“It is not at all unusual for officers to fire multiple rounds, once they begin to fire,” Kennedy said in an email message, noting as Drago did that bullets often don’t “take immediate effect.”
In the case of Brown, investigators should look at how far away Wilson was from Brown when he shot him, according to Drago. To do that, investigators can look at how much soot is on Brown’s body.
“If he [the police officer] says, he was trying to take my gun away from me,” Drago said, “there is going to be some very close-range forensics to show that.”
In addition to the family-ordered autopsy, the Justice Department will perform its own autopsy on Brown.
Ferguson, a city of 21,000 and a suburb of St. Louis, has been the site of protests and riots since Brown was shot on Aug. 9 after a cop stopped him for jaywalking.
Missouri’s governor said Monday he would deploy the National Guard there to try to get the situation under control.
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