A 464-page FBI report released Friday contains gruesome details from the autopsy of Emmett Till, but it is so highly redacted that it doesn’t shed much light on the teen’s killing, which helped galvanize the civil rights movement.
The report found that Till, killed in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman, died of a gunshot wound to the head and that he had broken wrist bones and skull and leg fractures.
When the 14-year-old’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in the summer of 1955, the report said, “the crown of his head was just crushed out ... and a piece of his skull just fell out.”
The FBI report is part of an 8,000-page file investigators amassed during its three-year investigation into the killing, opened at the request of the district attorney in Greenwood, Miss. The local prosecutor recently announced that a grand jury had declined to return an indictment in the case.
Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, who are deceased, were acquitted of the crime by an all-white jury. They later confessed in a 1956 interview with Look magazine.
A national outrage
Nearly 100,000 people visited Till’s open casket during a four-day public viewing in Chicago. A graphic photo of his face appeared in Jet magazine, sparking national outrage.
One of Till’s cousins, Wheeler Parker Jr., said the family had hoped more people involved in the crime would acknowledge their roles during the investigation. Parker said he was not surprised, however, that no charges were filed.
“Most of the people are dead, so I guess they did the best they could,” Parker said of the FBI.
Names, photos and other identifying information about living people were redacted from the report “out of privacy considerations,” according to FBI spokeswoman Denise Ballew. Autopsy photos also were redacted “to protect the privacy interests of the surviving family members,” Ballew said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
The report, available online, says investigators found no evidence of Ku Klux Klan involvement in the crime.
Confession pleases Till family
Federal investigators reviewed the report with the family Thursday. Parker, who was there when Till whistled at Carolyn Bryant and also when he was kidnapped, said a report of a confession by Leslie Milam, a relative of Bryant and Milam, was the most satisfying part of the newly released documents.
“I was pleased to hear that one of the gentlemen confessed on his deathbed to his pastor ... that’s kind of what I wanted to hear,” Parker said.
A cousin of Till, Simeon Wright, 64, was present when Till was kidnapped and said the investigation proved the family never will have closure.
“There are some things that will never be resolved about the Till case until someone comes forward. Maybe they’ll just take it to the grave,” Wright said.