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An Account Of The Ferguson Shooting, From The Man Standing Beside Brown


Freeman Bosley, former mayor of St. Louis, is the lawyer for Dorian Johnson, the 22-year-old man who was with Michael Brown on the night Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We describe Dorian Johnson as "the man who was with Michael Brown on the night that [Brown] was shot and killed." Brown was not shot at night but around noon, local time.] And he joins us now. And, Mr. Bosley, first, have the police or the FBI interviewed your client to take his account of the shooting?

FREEMAN BOSLEY: Yes, they did, and I'm glad that you asked that because sometimes people seem to think that we are just now releasing information or just now making statements. But my client, Dorian Johnson, last Wednesday - as late as last Wednesday we met with the FBI, Department of Justice, police officers investigating the case for the St. Louis County prosecutor's office. And Mr. Johnson gave an account of what he started out doing that morning when he woke up. Talked to them about the fact that he and Mr. Big Mike went to the Ferguson Market. He talked about the incident involving the cigarillos and talked about the walk on the way back leading up to the confrontation. Well, with the officers and then ultimately the shooting in which Big Mike was killed.

SIEGEL: Now, Dorian Johnson has been quoted as saying that officer Wilson shot, as you say Big Mike, Michael Brown, in the back. The autopsy that was performed at the Brown family's request by Michael Baden found no such wound. There's nothing consistent with that. Could Dorian Johnson be mistaken as eye witnesses sometimes are mistaken?

BOSLEY: Yeah, well, you know, here's what's all unfolded in a matter of seconds. He saw Big Mike run by, he saw the officer run by, he did see the officer firing at Big Mike. Now the autopsy - with his back to the officer. The autopsy does show that there was a shot to the arm that could be from the back. OK, so that wouldn't be inconsistent with what my client testified to, but what he shot him directly in the back - I guess we now know that was not the case.

SIEGEL: A self-described friend of Officer Darren Wilson went on a St. Louis talk radio show and related what she says was Wilson's account of the shooting. And by that account, Michael Brown punched him, wrestled for control of his gun and ultimately, after walking away, turned back and charged at the police officer. Does Dorian Johnson say that any of those things happened?

BOSLEY: Dorian Johnson's account does not involve a fight between Big Mike and the officer while they are at that car. It does describe a tussle in which the officer attempted to pull Big Mike by the - closer to the car. It's my understanding that a shot was fired at the car, that Big Mike was able to get away, and that he and Dorian began running.

SIEGEL: And at any point, did Mike Brown stop running and turn back and charge the police officer, according to your client?

BOSLEY: According to Dorian, he did stop running. He put his hands in the air and turned around, and that's when the officer fired on him. Big Mike did fall forward, OK, so people may be able to infer that the officer may have felt he was charging but Big Mike, according to Dorian, did not charge the officer. He turned around, put his hands up.

SIEGEL: So, he stopped running, did turn around, but you're saying not for the purpose of being aggressive - rather, surrendering to the officer is your client's account.

BOSLEY: Well, in most instances people that turnaround, put their hands up - they're not going to charge you. They've put their hands up as if that's an indication that, hey, I'm done. I'm surrendering.

SIEGEL: To what extent should we question his account of events, knowing that he had just been, if not a participant, an immediate witness to a - you know, a kind of a pretty thuggish moment there in that store when Michael Brown stole those cigars, and more to the point sort of shoved the sales clerk away in a rather aggressive way. Is Dorian Johnson - does he have a stake in his version of events?

BOSLEY: Well, of course everybody has a stake in their version of events. My dad told me that my grandmother, his mother, used to always tell him, son, every tulip has to sit on its own bottom. And that's the same case with Dorian Johnson. I mean, his story, his case is going to have to stand on him - him as a person, him as an individual, him as a character. Twelve people sitting in a box, a jury, will be able to observe him. They'll be able to listen to him. They'll be able to check into his demeanor and make their decision as to whether or not he'll be credible.

SIEGEL: Mayor Bosley, thank you very much for talking to us.

BOSLEY: I appreciate you. Thank you so much.

SIEGEL: Freeman Bosley, former mayor of the city of St. Louis and now the lawyer for Dorian Johnson, the man who was with Michael Brown on the night that he was shot and killed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: August 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM EDT
We describe Dorian Johnson as "the man who was with Michael Brown on the night that [Brown] was shot and killed." Brown was not shot at night but around noon, local time. A previous Web introduction incorrectly said the same thing.