Family of Michael Brown, Teenager Shot to Death By Ferguson Police, Talks About His Life

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Jessica Lussenhop
Michael Brown at sixteen with his younger brother Andre.

Barely 24 hours after a Ferguson police officer shot and killed eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, his family wanted people to know two things.

First, that they would like anyone who is sharing photos of Brown's lifeless body laying in the middle of Canfield Drive to take them down. Right now they're everywhere -- on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, hashtagged with Brown's name. Celebrities like Souljaboy are sharing photos of the body.

"We don't want that out there," said Eric Davis, Brown's cousin. "His body was in the street for hours."

The second is that Brown was a shy, nonviolent kid who loved music and wanted to go to college.

"He was excited about life, and he was just so proud when he graduated, got his diploma. Everybody was," said Desuirea Harris, Brown's grandmother.

See also:
- Peaceful Protest for Mike Brown Before Riot Police and Looting Takes Over

- Ferguson Riots: North County Business Owners (Some Armed) Survey the Damage

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Jessica Lussenhop
Michael Brown Sr., far left, visits the spot where his son died.

On Saturday at about noon, Brown was walking with a friend on the 2900 block of Canfield Drive when they came across a Ferguson police officer. Accounts differ about what exactly happened, but Brown ended up lying face down in the street in a pool of blood, shot repeatedly by the officer, a six-year veteran who has yet to be identified. Brown did not have a weapon. Witnesses at the scene told the media that Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot -- some described the shooting as "execution style." At a press conference on Sunday morning, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar gave the (very brief) official version of what occurred, accompanied by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who did not speak. St. Louis County is in charge of the investigation. Here's what Belmar told reporters:

One of those individuals at the time came in as the officer was exiting his police car. Allegedly pushed the police officer back into the car where he physically assaulted the police officer. It is our understanding at this point in the investigation that within the police car there was a struggle over the officer's weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the car after that. The officer came back out of the car, he exited his vehicle, and there was a shooting that occurred where the officer in fact shot the subject, and the subject -- they were fatal injuries.

Belmar confirmed that all the shots fired came from the officer's weapon and that though he does not have the final count, Brown was struck "more than a couple" times. He also confirmed that Brown did not have a weapon. A medical examiner will have a report in the coming weeks.

The scene outside the press conference at the Ferguson Police Station was at turns angry, sad and chaotic. The most charged moments occurred when a rumor swept through the crowd that the boy who Brown was with when they encountered the police officer was found dead behind a Domino's Pizza. After a few tense moments, Chief Jackson tried to assure the crowd that those reports were false, and that though the boy hadn't yet been interviewed by St. Louis County police, he was alive and with his parents.

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Jessica Lussenhop
The memorial on Canfield Drive.

In the late morning, Michael Brown Sr. arrived outside the station with other family members, looking drained. "I just want justice for my son," he said.

"He wasn't a violent person. He was peaceful," said Elizabeth Spivey, Brown's aunt. "He was a gentle giant. He looked like he could really do something but he wouldn't. He was a big teddy bear."

Over on Canfield Drive, about ten minutes from the police station, two orange cones marked the place where Brown fell. An empty liquor bottle sat in the middle, crushed rose petals mark the street red.

Belmar's description of events didn't make sense to Brown's 21-year-old cousin, Anthony Livingston, a manager at the Family Dollar and a cook at Bailey's Range. He was standing near a growing stuffed animal memorial, holding his four-month-old son. Livingston said he was Brown's best friend.

"I can't believe it was him. It hurt real bad, because I gotta face his mother and his grandmother," he said. "He was just a kid. He had dreams, big dreams. All he wanted to do is make music."

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Jessica Lussenhop
A photo of Mike Brown as a little boy, being kissed by one of his siblings. To the right is a jar he filled with rap lyric ideas.

Livingston walked Daily RFT down Canfield to the low-slung apartment buildings where Brown was living with his grandmother. In the dimly lit front room, the family spoke fondly of the teenager. Some of them sat on the couch that he used as his bed. They say he slept like a rock on it, despite his big frame.

After he graduated Normandy High School in the spring (a struggle, Livingston said, but Brown did it for his mother), Brown was spending his summer trying to figure out what the next step was. Livingston was trying to get him a job working with him at Family Dollar. Brown was also supposed to begin classes the next week at Vatterott College. He wanted to study music and sound engineering.

"He wanted to go there and do the music thing, he also wanted to go to another college because he wanted to play football. His coach at his school in Normandy said that he could do that, get into a college playing football," said Harris, Brown's grandmother.

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Jessica Lussenhop
Brown's diploma.

Livingston said that it had been a good summer so far for Brown. He'd graduated and seemingly overnight, went from a shy kid, kind of a loner who spent a lot of time playing PlayStation 3, to being obsessed with becoming a famous rapper. He said after Brown started getting positive feedback from songs he posted on social media -- ones he recorded in a studio set up in his grandmother's basement -- he started coming out of his shell. Brown worked tirelessly to put out more and more music. He chose the performing name "Big Mike."

"That's what I liked about him. I'm 21 but he was so wise and smart, I gravitated to him," said Livingston. "If he say he going to do something, he put his mind to it."

Even though he seemed to be going through a transformation, the family agreed that in general Brown was shy.

"He was quiet. He didn't have too many friends," says Livingston, who used to live right next door to Harris and Brown. "He used to tell me, 'Man, you're my only real homeboy.'"

"The only person he hung out with was her," chimes in Pam, a family friend, gesturing to Brown's grandmother who nods her head silently.

More and more people began to filter into the house. Alderman Antonio French came in briefly to inform Harris that somebody offered to pay for Brown's funeral. A local pastor and several helpers trooped in with cases of soda and hot takeout food. The pastor handed Harris an envelope with a check inside to help with whatever the family needs. Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, entered wearing dark sunglasses -- she didn't want to talk to the press and disappeared into a back room. Next came two young girls -- one, Livingston whispered, is Brown's girlfriend. When she started to cry, someone pulled her into another room and closed the door. Harris got up to join them.

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Jessica Lussenhop
Mike Brown's lyric jar.

After a few minutes, Livingston said the family was likely discussing what to do next, whether to get a lawyer and how to combat the narrative being put out by Ferguson police. He got up and brought back a jar. This, he said, is where Brown kept his rap lyric ideas. The jar was stuffed full of white scraps of paper with fragments of sentences, snippets of thoughts, written in loopy handwriting.

"My city why people so petty/I rised from the Dead/now you can't look me in my eyes," read one.

"Because you neva Believed in me GONE," said another.

And another: "Grandma raised me better than that."

Livingston brought out an iPad mini and started flipping through Instagram posts by celebrities like Russell Simmons, Souljaboy and Young Jeezy all talking about Brown. They posted things like, "I am Michael Brown."

"That's all he ever wanted! It's amazing because he was just talking about this the other day," Livingston half laughed. "'I want to be famous. I want to do this, I want to do that.' It's sad that this had to happen for him to be famous."

For more on the response to Brown's death, read our follow-up story about the peaceful Ferguson vigil that turned into a riot.

Email the author at Jessica.Lussenhop@RiverfrontTimes.com.


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599 comments
Larry Scheller
Larry Scheller

Good journalism = objective and unbiased RFT ! We all know how objective family can be . My mother thought I was perfect but I really was perfect . That said , my heart goes out to Mike's loved ones . I'm sure Mike did have many good qualities but I don't think he was showing them that night, unfortunately. Sad !

Larry Scheller
Larry Scheller

Well he wasn't being violent in that Quick Shop video !

Thomas Droege
Thomas Droege

HE HAD A JUVENILE RECORD A MILE LONG. LET ME GUESS, WHOEVER WROTE THIS IS BLACK.

Margaret Nicholson
Margaret Nicholson

The kid had some problems, but comments on here are horrible. Yes police officer had a right to shoot. But people on here do not need to make racist comments. Your the reason why so many black people think white people are hateful towards them. Stop it.

Missy Peters Schnorbus
Missy Peters Schnorbus

Are you kidding me? Stop selling this thug as some sweet caring kid. He bullied an old man and threatened a cop. He was no sweetheart. RFT you are disgusting!!

Joesph Duke
Joesph Duke

Stop showing grade school pic of this Coon!!

Joesph Duke
Joesph Duke

Any body that attack cops . You might end up dead

Joesph Duke
Joesph Duke

He wasn't a non-violent. We seen how he acted in the store. I think that coon went and got himself killed be a bully to the wrong guy

Shelly Walter
Shelly Walter

I love how you consider being a criminal part of the black experience, Elizabeth. And anyone who doesn't like is obviously a racist.

Shelly Walter
Shelly Walter

Has anyone confirmed his enrollment at technical school? Because I've been told by several people that he never registered there and it was just another media lie. One of dozens in this case. Regardless, he wasn't going to college. He was going to prison for a few years. Sorry that your Saint Michael narrative turned out ot be a lie. Could you just admit how stupid you are now, instead of reprinting your socialist propaganda?

Steve Osborne
Steve Osborne

What a fairy tale of a story. Oh yea, I now remember why I never read your paper.

Michael L Bates
Michael L Bates

I think it's amazing that the vast majority of RFT readers are against the articles they have been posting, but they still do it anyway!

David B Fowler
David B Fowler

Wanted. But ended up with wrong crowd. Became a dead thug.

Terry Iverson
Terry Iverson

because the majority of people in the country are white and when it comes to something like this I don't think color matters to people for the most part, yes there are plenty of racist but there's alot of good people of both races

Scott Lands
Scott Lands

Your paper is priced the same as your value to the community and journalistic quality. Nothing. TP has more of both.

Ronnie George
Ronnie George

These comments ,is racially divisive ,so please let god rest the dead and live and let live.

Todd Higgins
Todd Higgins

There son was a big ass thug. Plain and simple. Hit a cop try to take his gun you deserve to go the boneyard black or white

ChrisXtopher Roles
ChrisXtopher Roles

Elizabeth Burchfield, the word Thug is not taking the place of the word nigger. If people wanted to say it, then they'll fucking say it, ignorance and all. But, let's push that aside for now and point out your racist comment mentioning white people... It's not just white people saying it, I don't know if you get out often or not, just assuming you knew that since the whole fucking world knows that ( except certain tribes that have no contact with the outside world ) I want to say thug because that's what he was. It's another word for criminal. I use the word thug for all races who decide to act like one. So your whole "pointing fingers" comment is just irrelevant. It's okay, we understand you're not as caught up as others. Some schools may still be offering classes for that :)

Craig Richason
Craig Richason

RFT - this ridiculous attempt at journalism has made you at least partially culpable for the events that followed. Now that a grand jury has swept aside media fiction, let's see if you can redeem some journalistic integrity by telling the real story or go down the tubes with this rag. #gentlegiant

Donald LaMacchia
Donald LaMacchia

Almost one of the top 10 funniest post, the one I like best is the one where they are asking people to send money to rebuild the town. I wrote back and said just make up fliers and get a mailing list for hoodrats they had so much fun messing it up let them rebuild/pay for it with all the stuff they stole for crack rocks or those damn woof woof systems that they play that nobody wants to hear. or better yet making your car into a 4x4 and putting flinstone wheels on it do you realy think they can go rooting with those tires on it?

Dawn Rednour
Dawn Rednour

It's a shame that the officers and national guards had to celebrate the holiday away from their families because of the thug wannabes&looters.May the bad people of Ferguson never have a good thing in their crappy lives ever&may the good people of Ferguson have happiness&blessings always.So it is said,so mote it be

Mary Muehlhauser LeBeau
Mary Muehlhauser LeBeau

Whatever! Ok this sweet boy attacked a police officer and got his butt shot. Better?

Jay Hemp
Jay Hemp

What a bunch of heartless assholes! The man is dead, the officer exonerated, yet you all still want to line up to piss on his grave. You are all horrible! Let Michael's parents feel how they need to get through his death, respect their needs and feelings for fuck's sake!

Jay Hemp
Jay Hemp

Why do you think most of the contributors were white?

Jeff Willett
Jeff Willett

Happy Thanksgiving Julie to you and yours :)

Judson Calkins
Judson Calkins

I feel so sorry for a thug who attacked a police officer. Darren Wilson saved the taxpayers some money.

Jeff Willett
Jeff Willett

This is the reason everybody went crazy about this the first day- total bullshit stories like this and the phony 'eyewitness' accounts. Irresponsible of them to vomit this nonsense back up when the city is trying to heal..

Jay Hemp
Jay Hemp

No, asshole, but if you ask Dylan Clebold's parents today I'd bet they'd say he was a nice kid who was misunderstood. The families of the dead won't speak ill of him, they're still going through grief. Conservative moron

Elizabeth Burchfield
Elizabeth Burchfield

I like how thug is just the old white persons way of saying nigger now without getting in trouble. We know what you want to say.

Melissa Wrozier
Melissa Wrozier

Did you see him rough up the business owner? Lying article. Probably why most the paper have been removed from businesses.

Charles Settles
Charles Settles

Just goes to prove exactly how stupid and giganticly gullible people are.

Elvard Davis
Elvard Davis

Don't abuse your bird by locking him up with a copy of the RFT, that paper isn't even worth shitting on.

Jim Harvatin
Jim Harvatin

He was never enrolled at a college that was already proven quit making him out to be a saint !

Andrew G Fritschle
Andrew G Fritschle

And if he would have just listened to officer Wilson his dumb ass wouldn't have been killed. All of the crazy shit that's going on and the fact that the police and national guards men and women didn't get to be home with their families is his fucking fault.

Ryan Conway
Ryan Conway

Well thank you, sir. I win so rarely, I'm not quite sure what to say.

Eric Kuenkler
Eric Kuenkler

Thanks for rehashing something that now hits a lot of people harder than the first time around. Stop trying to get the ratings. You're making yourself look worse than the last time you tried to do something other than music and movie reviews.

John Klostermann
John Klostermann

People. Pick up the RFT mag. And start complaining to the companies who advertise in their worthless magazine. Call them several times in a day. When they start to lose advertisers they start to lose money. That is the only we can get them to shut up and stop stirring the shit pot. More so this one racist third grade journalist that hides in the shadows of the SHIT HOLE... Called THE RFT.

justjeiio
justjeiio

Yes let them feel any ol way they want. Never mind their words and actions directly resulted in rioting, looting and the destruction of an entire town. Their son is dead and thats a tragedy. But they dont get a free pass to lie and manipulate the public. They are the ones putting themselves out there for ridicule. How about this, how about they stay off television with their lies and distortion of the facts and morn in private. After listening to their statements and seeing how they act its my opinion that not only did Michael Browns actions lead to his own death but their parenting helped guide him right into his grave.

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