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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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679 comments
shollent
shollent

More lies...  what happened to the story about him going to the heating and AC school.  AND... his grandmother has a basement - she lives in an apartment... there is no basement!

shollent
shollent

More lies...  what happened to the story about him going to the heating and AC school.  AND... his grandmother has a basement - she lives in an apartment... there is no basement!

newmoonu2010
newmoonu2010

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

"Because you neva Believed in me

"Grandma raised me better than that"

Those "lyrics need to be put together!

Sounds like a suicide letter to me.

~just my opinion

He even alluded to it on his last Facebook post.


seeeek
seeeek

Lol at the false narrative you are selling in this article.

Burt Walsh
Burt Walsh

Well video of strong armed robbery proved other wise . Video don't lie .

Marc Weiss
Marc Weiss

Where would I start to explain this. First we can start with the fictitious gentle giant narrative. Next let's look at the character of the people who are telling the story. We have a mom who is in trouble for theft and assault. We have a grandmother selling Tshirts to make a quick buck off her grand son's demise. We have a step dad who insights riot by telling people to "burn the bit-ch" down. Need we go further ?

Jana Rice
Jana Rice

So true. Thanks for posting.

Jana Rice
Jana Rice

Coon? Wow you are a racist shithead.

Jana Rice
Jana Rice

Thank you Amy. The number of privileged white comments on this thread is pretty disheartening.

Ben Sansoucie
Ben Sansoucie

I've certainly seen enough of them on the new on the news saying burn this bitch down and fuck the police, not to mention beating up their grandma....no thanks I don't want to know people like that

Jana Rice
Jana Rice

Oh. Do you know them personally?

Jana Rice
Jana Rice

How is interviewing the family and reporting their words and experiences with Mike "fictional"?

Ray L Grayson
Ray L Grayson

The government must be really good and even know magic to dress this thug up like brown, make him Rob the store ,beat the clerk up, assault a young police officer, and get it all on tape.. with all the 60 Brown witnesses not 2 of them had matching stories. Y'all need to get a life move on quit burning other people's property and creating havoc on law abiding good people, stealing, and making a bigger ass out of yourselves than y'all already have.... Thanks for listening ... That felt great..

Holly Julian
Holly Julian

It would be a totally different situation had he been just walking down the street behaving himself and this happens. It's kinda interesting to how on TV in the news conferences his parents are all quiet and subdued calling for calm and you see them in the news footage from the protests on top of cars egging people on.... There's something wrong with them...

Michael J Keller
Michael J Keller

Shy boys don't beat up on cops, slam their car doors shut, curse them, otherwise disrespect them - and then fight them. I was taught to respect authority figures MUCH better than that. If you think he was a 'good kid', you was raised on the VERY wrong side of the tracks. I feel for you.

Mac Raptor
Mac Raptor

Its been a lot calmer and you need the violent stories so you keep posting this shit? Pathetic.

Elizabeth Welborn Donovan
Elizabeth Welborn Donovan

The world saw the cameras on the thug Michael brown stealing cigars and bullying the shop worker. His family must think this is normal behavior. A thug is a thug. Someone must have taught him at home to bully others. Then he tried to harm a policeman for kicks. The policeman defended himself shooting the attacker Michael Brown. Simple facts. Our police shouid not be targets for thugs. Do his parents work? The world is appalled at the behavior of the protesters and looters.

Chris Frank
Chris Frank

Rft doesn't care about journalism, they care about followers, likes & social media activity. That's why they post the same 6 articles over & over.

Alan Franklin
Alan Franklin

Guess they didn't know their son he wasn't shy about taking those cigars maybe if he wasn't shipped off to his grandma to be raised maybe they'd known him better

Michael Kral
Michael Kral

This is not Michael Brown from Missouri ! They keep posting these pics from a different Michael Brown in California !! more propaganda to keep the hate alive ....

Janet Eason
Janet Eason

Your nothing more than a Faux News believer. If they told you the drinking gas fixes cancer, you'd do it.

Adam Goggin
Adam Goggin

"Nonviolent"??? He assaulted a store clerk trying to stop him from stealing! It's on video. This isn't made up.. So is him assaulting a cop that unbelievable? Think about it!

Jane Sullivan
Jane Sullivan

RFT, you've reached the bottom. Anything to stir the pot and sensationalize. MB was a thug. He's dead because of the choices he made. His parents failed him in many ways and need to accept some blame. You need to find a different poster boy! I am unfollowing you. #unfollowRFT

Nicolas Deleon
Nicolas Deleon

He was humanized in the video of him committing a strong armed robbery for some swisher sweets so he can smoke some blunts with his friend.

Roy Johnson
Roy Johnson

haha and it's so funny because you're RIGHT.

Tina Spicer
Tina Spicer

Than why did his parents have problems getting along with him if he was such a good adult?? I call bull

Misty Rose
Misty Rose

BRILLIANT! I will start first thing Monday morning!!

Mike Emerson
Mike Emerson

"Victim"...if a man breaks in my home and I shoot him dead, is he a victim? No, he's a dead criminal. Now, if a man robs a convenience store then attacks a police officer and is shot dead, is he a victim? Nope, still a dead criminal. 'Nuff said...any questions?

David Mclaughlin
David Mclaughlin

She attacked Mike Browns' grandma and cousin for selling T-shirts, they weren't getting there cut, she took fourteen hundred dollars from the Grandma.

Brynn Sanders
Brynn Sanders

He was a person. He was not perfect. People are complex. Do they deserve to die and then be forgotten? No. Everyone should know about the person he was outside of one day.

Rhonda Verville
Rhonda Verville

No he doesnt need to be discussed anymore... Its time for it to stop, Americans Black and White, need a break!! RFT glutton for punishment r u?

Jeff Craig
Jeff Craig

Facts are good.....compassion and honesty raise us to good.

Brynn Sanders
Brynn Sanders

Good for you RFT. He is a human, who should be discussed as such.

Kevin Schwab
Kevin Schwab

Or for that matter attack anyone since he was bigger than 90% of the population.

Kevin Schwab
Kevin Schwab

The difference is Charley Manson didn't arrack a cop...

John Klostermann
John Klostermann

Call all the advertisers on the RFT and let them know you are not going to do business with them as long as they advertise on the RFT

Nicholas Schroer
Nicholas Schroer

If he's truly a nonviolent young man, how do you explain the robbery and assault prior to his interaction with police? Wait... you can't.

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