Medical Transporter Explains Why Michael Brown's Body Stayed in the Street for Hours

Sep 8, 2014 at 10:00 am
Protesters face police in riot gear in the days after Michael Brown's death. - Danny Wicentowski
Danny Wicentowski
Protesters face police in riot gear in the days after Michael Brown's death.

After Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer near his grandmother's apartment complex, his body stayed in the street -- sometime covered, sometimes not -- for about four hours.

Photos of the body spread rapidly on social media, fueling the anger of a crowd already distraught at the death of an unarmed black teenager. Weeks later, many point to the delay in moving Brown's body as the first sign of police breaking trust and mishandling the case. Even Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters he was uncomfortable with the long wait before Brown was transported to a nearby morgue.

So what took so long?

Jackson responded that "gun shots" nearby delayed investigators on scene, and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar pointed to the complexity of the investigation into Brown's death at the hands of an officer.

"This is a very complicated investigation, as it should be," Belmar said. "We need to make sure this investigation is done right."

See also: Michael Brown and Ferguson: The Story in Photos

But to get the whole story, you have to hear from Calvin Whitaker, the man responsible for moving Brown's body. Whitaker, a funeral director who handles moving bodies for St. Louis County, explained his side of the story to John Pertzborn on Fox2Now.

Police called Whitaker and his wife, who is also a funeral director, to pick up Brown's body at 2:01 p.m., two hours after Ferguson Police Officer shot Brown. Whitaker arrived at 2:25 p.m. to find a tumultuous, angry crowd.

"It was very hectic, you could cut the tension with a knife," Whitaker tells Fox2Now. "Police could not control the crowd."

At one point, Whitaker heard gunshots nearby, just as Jackson told reporters in the days after Brown's shooting. Whitaker and his wife don't carry bullet-proof vests, so police told them to "hunker down" in their car to keep safe.

"There were times when we feared for our lives," Whitaker says. He and his wife stayed in the car for two hours waiting for police to control the crowd. "It took so long because we could not do our job. It was unsafe for us to be there...There was nowhere for us to go."

The only thing that could calm the crowd down long enough for Whitaker to take Brown's body away was a plea from Brown's family. Whitaker says he remembers family members begging the crowd to step back, saying, ""They will not pickup my son, they are not safe."

Finally, more than four hours after he'd been shot, Brown's body arrived at the morgue in Berkeley, about fifteen minutes away.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at [email protected].