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5 things to know about Michael Brown's shooting

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Story highlights

  • Officer who fatally shot teen is identified as Darren Wilson, 28
  • Police say Michael Brown was prime suspect in a robbery just before police shooting
  • Witnesses, police concur that tussle preceded shooting, Brown was unarmed
  • Details in dispute as witnesses deny claim that Brown reached for officer's weapon

What really happened to Michael Brown?

We know a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, fatally shot the 18-year-old, but police and witnesses have given different accounts of what happened in the moments before the shooting. The confusion has fueled protests in Ferguson and, strong police response in the streets of the St. Louis suburb.

Here are five key questions about the incident:

How did it start?

Brown and Dorian Johnson, 22, were walking in the middle of the street, en route to either Brown's grandmother's house (according to Brown's mother and grandmother) or to Johnson's house (according to Johnson), when a Ferguson police officer confronted them.

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The officer told the young men either "Get the f*** on the sidewalk" or "Get the f*** out of the street," according to Johnson's accounts to CNN and other news outlets.

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The young men replied that they were "not but a minute away from our destination, and we would shortly be out of the street," Johnson told CNN.

The officer drove away but stopped and backed up, almost hitting the pair, Johnson said. He said he wasn't sure what prompted the officer to return. Johnson told MSNBC the officer said something to the effect of "What'd you say?"

"We were so close, almost inches away, that when he tried to open his door aggressively, the door ricocheted both off me and Big Mike's body and closed back on the officer," Johnson said.

Was there a struggle?

Yes. Everyone agrees on this point, and it's one of the few aspects of the shooting that police have attempted to detail, though the official explanation has spurred many questions they have yet to answer.

The preliminary investigation showed that the officer tried to exit his vehicle, but Brown pushed him back into the car, "where he physically assaulted the police officer" and struggled over the officer's weapon, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.

A shot was fired inside the police car, Belmar said. After the incident, the officer was taken to an area hospital, where he was treated for a "swollen face," according to Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.

The story doesn't jibe with at least three witness accounts.

Johnson claims the officer grabbed Brown by his neck, and Brown tried to pull away, but the officer kept pulling Brown toward him, he said.

The officer drew his weapon, and "he said, 'I'll shoot you' or 'I'm going to shoot' " and almost instantaneously fired his weapon, hitting Brown, Johnson said.

Witness Tiffany Mitchell was picking up coworker Piaget Crenshaw for their jobs when she saw Brown and the officer "tussling through the window." Mitchell and Crenshaw said Brown appeared to be trying to pry himself from the officer's grasp. Brown had his hand on the police cruiser, trying to push himself away, Mitchell said.

Was Brown armed?

No. Again, this is undisputed.

Every casing found at the scene came from the officer's gun, Belmar said, and witnesses say that after the officer initially fired, the two young men took off running.

"I saw the officer proceeding after my friend, Big Mike, with his gun drawn, and he fired a second shot, and that struck my friend, Big Mike," Johnson said. "And at that time, he turned around with his hands up, beginning to tell the officer that he was unarmed and to tell him to stop shooting. But at that time, the officer was firing several more shots into my friend, and he hit the ground and died."

This matches Crenshaw's and Mitchell's story. Crenshaw told CNN that Brown got about 20 feet away from the police cruiser before the officer shot him again.

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"The cop gets out of his vehicle shooting," Mitchell said. "(Brown's) body jerked as if he was hit from behind, and he turned around, and he put his hands up. ... The cop continued to fire until he just dropped down to the ground, and his face just smacked the concrete."

All parties agree Brown was shot multiple times.

Mitchell said it was "more than about five or six" times, while Johnson said it was more than three.

Brown's mother said she was told he was shot eight times. Some witnesses said they heard as many as 10 shots.

Belmar said only that it "was more than just a couple."

What were Brown and Johnson doing before the incident?

On Friday, six days after the shooting, Ferguson police revealed that Brown was the "primary suspect" in the strong-arm robbery of a convenience store moments before he encountered police and was killed.

A store surveillance video shows a man pushing a clerk before walking out the front door with a box of Swisher Sweets cigars worth $48.99, according to information released by police.

The Brown family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said that the person in the video appears to be Michael Brown.

Read the police reports

Johnson, who was with Brown when he was shot, will not face any criminal charges in connection with the store robbery because "we have determined he committed no crime," Jackson said.

Jackson said that the officer who shot Brown was responding to a call about the robbery.

Later in the day, Jackson revised that comment, saying the officer approached Brown not because of the robbery, but because he was "walking down the middle of the street, blocking traffic."

Has the officer been identified?

Yes, but it took police six days.

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Police initially promised to release the officer's name but held off, saying they feared for his safety.

On Friday, police revealed the officer as Darren Wilson, 28, who is white and a six-year veteran of the department without any history of disciplinary action.

Wilson is on paid administrative leave, Belmar said, and will have to undergo two psychological evaluations before returning to duty.

Though the officer was promptly released from the hospital, Jackson said he spoke to him, and he was "very shaken about what happened that day and the aftermath. ... He's hurt."

No further details were immediately available Friday.

Brown's family and their attorneys were infuriated at how police released Wilson's identity and allegations of Brown's role in the robbery on the same day.

"The prolonged release of the officer's name and then the subsequent alleged information regarding a robbery is the reason why the family and the local community have such distrust for the local law enforcement agencies," the family and lawyer said in a statement.

Magazine: The Aftermath in Ferguson

Complete coverage on the Ferguson shooting and protests