DOCUMENT: Investigation

Ferguson Witness Floated Bizarre Phone Tale

Woman said she filmed shooting, ruined device

Cell Phone in Toilet

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DECEMBER 18--A grand jury witness who testified that Michael Brown was shot while on his knees with his hands up told prosecutors that she filmed the fatal confrontation with her cell phone, but later threw the device out after dropping it in the toilet.

The bizarre claim was made by a Ferguson, Missouri resident identified as “Witness 41” in grand jury records released by St. Louis prosecutors.

The woman, who lives in an apartment complex adjacent to the street where Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson, appeared before the grand jury on October 27. Her godson testified in front of the panel after she left the witness stand.

During her testimony, “Witness 41” said nothing about videotaping the August 9 killing of Brown. It was only after she and her godson had completed testifying that the woman told prosecutors about the recording.

According to prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh, she and fellow prosecutor Sheila Whirley were saying goodbye to “Witness 41” and her godson when, “I made the comment about how it is too bad there weren’t surveillance cameras in the complex.”

“Witness 41” replied that she had video of “the entire thing on her phone,” Alizadeh recalled in comments to the 12 members of the grand jury. Alizadeh then asked “Witness 41” what part of the incident she captured, and if the shooting itself was taped. “Witness 41,” Alizadeh said, responded that she had recorded the shooting.

However, “Witness 41” then claimed, “But I dropped the phone in the toilet."

Undeterred, Alizadeh said that the phone could still undergo a “forensic examination” to determine if the video could be recovered.

But that was not possible, “Witness 41” explained. Alizadeh told jurors that, “She said it is in the junk yard. She got so mad she threw it away.” Alizadeh then noted, “This is information I’ve never known about.” “Neither have I,” Whirley chimed in.

The hallway revelation also appeared to come as a surprise to “Witness 41”’s godson, who lives next door to her. “This was news to him as well because he asked her where is the phone and, you know, he seemed to indicate that he had not heard that information before,” Alizadeh told jurors. “So I thought it was important that you know that.”

Though prosecutors gave the panel the option of recalling “Witness 41” for further sworn testimony “about that,” she never returned to the witness stand.

“Witness 41” and her godson were two of the witnesses identified by FBI agents during a canvass of apartment buildings near Canfield Drive, the street where the unarmed Brown was killed.   

During an August 26 interview in the kitchen of her apartment, “Witness 41” told a pair of FBI agents that she saw Wilson shooting Brown while the 18-year-old was on his knees with his hands raised. She claimed that the cop stood over the fallen teenager and “just finished him up” with a shot to the head.

“Um, you understand that you, you’re not allowed to lie to a federal officer?” one agent asked “Witness 41,” who became upset when the investigator flatly said he was not buying her claims. In fact, the woman later told Ferguson grand jurors that she wanted to “choke” the FBI agent who challenged her.

When the agents declined her demand that they erase the tape recording of her interview, “Witness 41” picked up the recorder and shut it off.

After agreeing to resume the interview, “Witness 41” said that she seized the tape recorder “because my first statement was not completely true,” adding that she was “gonna record the true statement this time. The first statement was partly true.”

“Witness 41” then essentially repeated the same account, with one revision. This time, she claimed her vantage point was from behind Brown, not in front of the teenager. When an agent noted that, “you didn’t change anything right there,” the woman replied, “That’s the truth.” She later noted that, “I do have slightly memory relapse and if you call my doctor he would tell you that.”

“Witness 41” did not tell the FBI agents about purportedly dropping her evidence-laden phone in the toilet.

The FBI first interviewed the woman’s godson on August 19, one week after Brown’s killing. The man, dubbed “Witness 42,” said that Wilson first shot Brown in the back. Then, as the “surrendering” teen was slowly walking towards Wilson with his hands up, the cop repeatedly shot Brown, the man claimed.

Like “Witness 41,” the man claimed that Wilson shot Brown in the head while he was lying wounded in the street. Describing the shooting as “execution style,” the man claimed that, “The officer stood over him and finished him off.”

Both witnesses were interviewed by the FBI prior to the publication of details from Brown’s autopsy, which showed that he was not shot in the back or “finished” by Wilson.

“Witness 42” was questioned again by the FBI on September 30.  He recanted most of his original claims, explaining that he had “assumed” much of the details he had presented as facts to agents. He acknowledged that, from where he stood on August 9, “I couldn’t see physically with my eyes.”

Despite their wobbly FBI interviews, both “Witness 41” and “Witness 42” were called before the Ferguson grand jury, where they both testified to seeing Wilson shooting Brown while the teen’s hands were raised. When asked if he told the FBI “a bunch of lies” during his first interview, the man replied that his claims were “based on assumption.”

“Witness 41,” a mother of four who now lives alone, told the panel that she has been diagnosed with “mood swings, three personalities,” and takes pills for a mental health condition. When she takes her prescribed medicine, “Witness 41” testified, “I don’t feel like I’m a threat to myself or nobody else. I can take criticism, when I take certain meds. Certain meds if I don’t take them, I can’t take nobody hollering at me period.” She added, “Just makes me angry, makes me want to hurt them. (5 pages)