FERGUSON, Missouri — The last moments of Michael Brown’s life were filled with shock, fear and terror, says a witness who stood just feet away as a police officer shot and killed the unarmed teen.
“I saw the barrel of the gun pointed at my friend,” said Dorian Johnson, 22. “Then I saw the fire come out of the barrel.”
Johnson, in an exclusive interview with MSNBC, said what began as an order by a police officer to “get the f— onto the sidewalk” quickly escalated into a physical altercation and then gunfire.
“I could see so vividly what was going on because I was so close,” said Johnson, who said he was within arm’s reach of both Brown and the officer when the first of several shots was fired at the teen. Johnson says he feared for his life as he watched the officer squeezing off shot after shot.
Brown’s killing on Saturday afternoon has sparked protests and rioting in this small, hardscrabble suburb of St. Louis, where tensions continue to rise between the police and the largely black, mostly poor community. Brown’s shooting lifted the lid on a pot that had long been bubbling .
The police say the officer shot Brown after the teen shoved the officer and tried to wrestle the officer’s gun from him. But a number of witnesses, including Johnson, refute those claims. And in the wake of the shooting, the Ferguson Police Department has asked the St. Louis County police to step in and take over the investigation.
Meanwhile, the identity of the police officer involved in the shooting has not yet been revealed. It is known, however, that the officer who shot Brown has been placed on paid administrative leave.
But as darkness fell over Ferguson on Monday, ongoing protests were stifled by rubber bullets and tear gas fired at protesters by officers, according to witnesses.
Local branches of the NAACP have called on the Justice Department and federal and state law enforcement officials to take over the investigation from local police. The FBI has joined the investigation, and the Justice Department has said it is keeping an eye on the case. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday said that the FBI will help local authorities undertake a “thorough, fair investigation.”
For its part, Brown’s family has hired local attorney Anthony Gray and Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin.
“That baby was executed in broad daylight,” Crump said during a press conference Monday afternoon, standing beside Brown’s mother and father. Crump told a crowd of several dozen that Brown was shot and left in the road like an animal.
“He was a good boy who didn’t deserve any of this,” said Michael Brown Sr., the teen’s father.
“I just wish I could have been there to help my son,” the boy’s mother, Leslie McSpadden, said through tears.
On Monday, McSpadden and Brown’s father had planned to drop Brown off at a nearby technical college for the start of his freshman year. Instead, the family is making burial arrangements.
“We can’t even celebrate because we have to plan a funeral,” McSpadden said.
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