Michael Brown’s mom pushes for justice for her son in public hearing

Written by on July 11, 2024

In this Aug. 17, 2014 file photo, a demonstrator holds a sign reading, “Dont Shoot”, with a picture of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — The mother of Michael Brown — who was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer in 2014 sparking protests around the county — gave testimony to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) to review the case of her son’s killing in a public hearing on Wednesday.

Lezley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, joined nonprofit organization Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Howard University on a Zoom conference to petition the IACHR to recommend for United States prosecutors to criminally litigate Brown’s killing. Lawyers from the U.S. State Department and the Department of Justice also attended the hearing.

“The PTSD is overwhelming. I do have three remaining children. I was very scared and nervous to let them out of my sight for weeks after Mike was killed,” McSpadden said. “I received tons and tons of threatening letters. It got so bad where my lawyers had to look through my mail before I looked through it.”

The 10-year anniversary of Brown’s death is Aug. 9. Legal charges were never issued for Brown’s killing.

“We will undoubtedly hear from the state a litany of all the things they have done to address the scourge of racist police violence in this country over the last 10 years, some of which I commend them for doing,” Kerry Kennedy, with RFK Human Rights, said at the conference. “Is it enough when more people were killed by police in 2023 than any other previously recorded year? The answer is no.”

Brown, an 18-year-old Black teenager, was unarmed when Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer at the time, shot and killed him on Aug. 9, 2014. The shooting ignited weeks of protests, riots, looting and arson in Ferguson.

“We are deeply saddened by this event and by similar events across our nation, and this event serves as another reminder that we must do more to prevent such tragedies,” Thomas Hastings of the State Department said during the conference. “While we do not intend to discuss or debate the details of what took place on August 9, 2014, it was a devastating event that led to the loss of life of a young man.”

The incident contributed to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, as national protests over police brutality evoked Brown’s name among other Black Americans who died in police encounters, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“Hands up, don’t shoot,” a reference to claims that Brown had his hands up and voiced his surrender to the officer before being shot, became a rallying cry around the nation for those advocating against police brutality. The DOJ later determined in an investigative report that it could not confirm Brown capitulated to the officer before he was shot and killed.

“Federal statutes would require the government to prove that Officer Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot Michael Brown, Jr, and that he did so willfully,” Kristen Clarke of the DOJ said on Wednesday. “Willfully would mean proving that he shot Mr. Brown, knowing it was wrong and knowing it was against the law to do so. After a careful and exhaustive review of all available evidence the Justice Department in 2015 determined that the evidence did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer violated the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute.”

A St. Louis County grand jury declined to press charges against Wilson in 2014. He resigned from the police force soon after.

The U.S. Justice Department also chose not to indict the former officer in March 2015 due to witness accounts and evidence that claimed Brown attacked Wilson.

Brown’s family received a $1.5 million settlement in 2017 after they filed a lawsuit against the city of Ferguson.

“He never had a job, he never learned how to drive,” McSpadden said. “He was just beginning his life. So that was his first free summer to be a kid before he branched over into being a man. But he was robbed of it.”

The IACHR stated a report will be published outlining its findings on the case and issuing recommendations to the U.S. government.

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