Michael Brown’s parents file lawsuit against Ferguson and police chief, Darren Wilson

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BY MATT PEARCE
AND RYAN PARKER
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

The parents of Michael Brown, the unarmed Black man who was killed by police last summer, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on Aug. 23 against the city of Ferguson, Mo., former Police Chief Thomas Jackson and former Officer Darren Wilson.

Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, center, closes her eyes as attorneys Benjamin Crump, left, and Anthony Gray announce a wrongful-death lawsuit by Brown’s relatives on April 23 at the St. Louis County Circuit Court in Clayton, Mo. (HUY MACH/ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH/TNS)
Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, center, closes her eyes as attorneys Benjamin Crump, left, and Anthony Gray announce a wrongful-death lawsuit by Brown’s relatives on April 23 at the St. Louis County Circuit Court in Clayton, Mo.
(HUY MACH/ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH/TNS)

The Brown family’s attorney, Anthony Gray, promised the case “will highlight the facts that nobody has seen, physical evidence that nobody has talked about,” showing that Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, “not only should have been indicted, but he definitely should have been held responsible.”

The lawsuit seeks financial damages and an independent monitor to oversee reforms at the Ferguson Police Department.

The city did not respond to a request for comment last week.

Jeff Roorda, a police union official who helped organize a fundraiser last year supporting Wilson, said, “We will spend every last dollar to defend Darren Wilson against the outrageous civil claim that he acted improperly that day in Ferguson.

“Darren has been exonerated of any wrongdoing by a grand jury and by the Department of Justice,” Roorda said in an email. Roorda was confident that a “jury in this wrongful death suit will reach the same conclusion.”

Plenty of protests
The shooting death of Brown, 18, in August triggered months of protests and unrest in Ferguson, a predominantly Black St. Louis suburb with a mostly White police force.

For months, demonstrators chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” alluding to some witnesses’ claims that Brown was trying to surrender when he was killed. Other witnesses said Brown was charging Wilson when the officer shot him.

The fatal confrontation began when Wilson told Brown and a friend to stop walking in the street and get on the sidewalk.

The community was enraged not only by the killing but also by the authorities’ decision to leave Brown’s body in the street for more than four hours.

A St. Louis County grand jury heard evidence in the case for months but did not charge Wilson. The officer, who is no longer with the police force, testified that he fired his gun, hitting Brown at least six times, because he feared for his life.

The lack of an indictment set off another round of protests and unrest in November.

‘Evidence is key’
The U.S. Justice Department also investigated and announced last month that it would not charge Wilson with violating Brown’s civil rights. The department said it did not find credible evidence to support claims that Brown was shot as he tried to surrender.

“Obviously we take dispute with the way those cases were presented,” Gray said at a news conference on April 23. “Presentation of evidence is key.”

Another Brown family attorney, Benjamin Crump, said forensic evidence contradicts some elements of Wilson’s story. “It’s not Michael Brown’s parents filing this lawsuit; it is the forensic evidence that is filing this lawsuit,” he said.

Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., attended the news conference outside the St. Louis County courthouse but declined to speak.

Pattern of discrimination
The lawsuit paints Wilson as the aggressor and accuses the city and Chief Jackson of negligence and civil rights violations.

The complaint incorporates a Justice Department investigation that found a widespread pattern of racial discrimination that had turned Ferguson into a “powder keg” by the time the grand jury in November declined to indict Wilson.

The Justice Department report found that the Police Department and the local court system had engaged in institutionalized discrimination against black residents, ticketing and citing them to generate revenue for the city.

It also found that some police officers had passed around racist emails, including one that likened President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee. Those workers have been fired or have resigned.

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