Michael Brown shooting: Victim called quiet, funny, respectful

Michael Brown, in an undated photo KMOV-TV

Last Updated Aug 12, 2014 4:45 PM EDT

FERGUSON, Mo. - Michael Brown Sr. stood alone in the center of the narrow street where the blood of his namesake son still stained the gray pavement, two days after the 18-year-old was shot dead by a police officer. He straightened a waist-high wooden cross and re-lit the candles erected as part of a makeshift memorial.

"Big Mike," as some of his friends called Michael Brown Jr., wasn't the type to fight, family and neighbors said, though he lived in a restless neighborhood where police were on frequent patrol. His parents and neighbors described him as a good-hearted kid with an easy smile who certainly wouldn't have condoned the violence and looting that spread though his north St. Louis suburb following his death.

"He was funny, silly, he would make you laugh," his father said, and when there was "any problem going on, any situation, there wasn't nothing that he couldn't solve. He could bring people back together."

Brown's parents were joined at a news conference Tuesday by their representing attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin during the trial of George Zimmerman last year.

"I don't want to sugarcoat it, their baby was executed in broad daylight," Crump said of the 18-year-old. "That's why people are frustrated."

He said Brown's parents have called for calm as the investigation into the shooting proceeds.

"Respect how they raised him in the fact that he was a nonviolent kid," he said.

President Obama offered his condolences to Brown's family and called for calm as the Justice Department investigation into the case moves forward.

"I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding," Obama said in a statement released Tuesday.

Brown, who was unarmed, was shot Saturday by a Ferguson police officer while walking with a friend down the center of the street. Police have said a scuffle broke out after the officer asked the boys to move to the side. Witnesses say Brown's arms were in the air - in a sign of surrender - as a white policeman repeatedly shot the black youth.

After a vigil Sunday night, an angry crowd looted stores, and a night later police in Ferguson fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse protesters. The U.S. Justice Department has announced that its civil rights division was opening an investigation. Civil rights activist Al Sharpton was to meet with Brown's family on Tuesday as tensions remained high.

Brown was among a small group of students who had graduated Aug. 1 from Normandy High School, needing the summer to finish their required credits.

"We can't even celebrate; we've got to plan a funeral," said his tearful mother, Lesley McSpadden.

He had been staying at his grandmother's apartment, where he would often hang out in the parking lot tossing a football with friends, said Markese Mull, a neighbor whose 17-year-old-son was one of Brown's closer friends.

Brown was an aspiring rapper, though it was more of a hobby. This week, he was supposed to start college in pursuit of a career as a heating and air conditioning engineer. On the day of this death, Brown had walked with another friend to a nearby convenience store. Mull saw them in the street and honked his horn to say to "hi" - just minutes before the police officer came by.

"He was never a person who liked confrontation," Mull said. "His smile was going to make you smile."

Neighbors described Brown as quiet and respectful - a "good boy," who "was never in trouble," said Sharon Johnson, 58, who lives just a little ways down the street. Johnson said Brown would frequently stop to chat.

"We talked about how when you turn yourself to the Lord you feel so good - and good things come your way," Johnson said. "He had a more mature mind than a little boy's mind."

On Monday, Johnson was standing at the side of the street where Brown was shot as a woman who had driven in from a nearby community preached loudly to anyone willing to listen about the importance of peaceful protests and parental discipline for teenagers.

A passing car stopped, letting out a man wearing a newly made black T-shirt bearing Brown's baby picture and the words "NO JUSTICE NO PEACE."

"I'm his father," he said somberly, eliciting hugs.

The older Brown picked up a piece of cardboard that had been lying on the ground. "End police brutality," it read. He placed it on a pile of toy animals stacked by a streetlight pole, then set about straightening up his son's mid-street memorial.

He had just returned to the grass when a gunshot rang out. Then another. And another. It was time to go.

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