A breaking New York Times report sheds new light on Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s mortal encounter with local Michael Brown.

The police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., two months ago has told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life as he struggled over his gun with Mr. Brown, according to government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the matter.

The officer, Darren Wilson, has told the authorities that during the scuffle, Mr. Brown reached for the gun. It was fired twice in the car, according to forensics tests performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first bullet struck Mr. Brown in the arm; the second bullet missed.

The forensics tests showed Mr. Brown’s blood on the gun, as well as on the interior door panel and on Officer Wilson’s uniform. Officer Wilson told the authorities that Mr. Brown had punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck.

According to the New York Times, Wilson told authorities that he fought with Brown for possession of his service pistol, resulting in two rounds fired inside his police vehicle.  One round struck Brown in the arm, and the other was wasted.

Importantly, Brown’s blood was found on the gun by forensics analysis, as well as on the inside of the police vehicle, confirming his presence in the vehicle and the weapon.

Wilson said that Brown punched and scratched him numerous times, causing abrasions and swelling to his face and neck.

The officials briefed on the case said the forensic evidence gathered in the car lent credence to Officer Wilson’s version of events. According to his account, he was trying to leave his vehicle when Mr. Brown pushed him back in. Once inside the S.U.V., the two began to fight, Officer Wilson told investigators, and he removed his gun from the holster on his right hip.

Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department has said in interviews that Officer Wilson was “pushed back into the car” by Mr. Brown and “physically assaulted.”

The Times goes on to quote Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson as a sort of opposing witness to Officer Wilson.

Remarkably, the Times leaves unwritten the fact that Johnson has already confessed to collaborating with Brown in a strong-arm robbery of a local convenience store only minutes before the shooting that took Brown’s life.

However, Mr. Johnson’s description of the scuffle is detailed and specific, and directly contradicts what Officer Wilson has told the authorities.

Mr. Johnson has said that Officer Wilson was the aggressor, backing up his vehicle and opening the door, which hit Mr. Johnson and Mr. Brown and then bounced back.

“He just reached his arm out the window and grabbed my friend around his neck, and he was trying to choke my friend,” Mr. Johnson told reporters after the shooting. “He was trying to get away, and the officer then reached out and grabbed his arm to pull him inside the car.”

I expect the Grand Jury will weight the credibility of the various witness testimony as their civic duty requires.

The Times notes the importance of this new information, which Wilson presumably testified to:

In September, Officer Wilson appeared for four hours before a St. Louis County grand jury, which was convened to determine whether there is probable cause that he committed a crime. Legal experts have said that his decision to testify was surprising, given that it was not required by law. But the struggle in the car may prove to be a more influential piece of information for the grand jury, one that speaks to Officer Wilson’s state of mind, his feeling of vulnerability and his sense of heightened alert when he killed Mr. Brown.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.