Live

Watch CBSN Live

​Michael Brown's family sues city of Ferguson

CLAYTON, Missouri -- The parents of Michael Brown filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday against the city of Ferguson, Missouri over the fatal shooting of their son by a white police officer, a confrontation that sparked a protest movement across the United States.

Attorneys for Brown's parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., filed the complaint at the St. Louis County Courthouse and called a news conference to announce the case, which had been expected for months.

Messages seeking comment from Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III, city spokesman Jeff Small and an attorney for Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, were not immediately returned.

"The evidence has not changed but the presentation of that evidence will," family attorney Anthony Gray said Thursday at a news conference.

Fixing Ferguson

Gray ridiculed Wilson's characterization that he felt like a child being confronted by Hulk Hogan during the incident.

"This five-year-old was somehow able to manage to ... wrestle away from Hulk Hogan and get off a shot," Gray said.

Attorney Benjamin Crump said the Ferguson case was among many cases across the nation in which the "standard police narrative" contradicts physical evidence.

"When is America going to challenge the standard police narrative when (law enforcement officers) continue to kill unarmed people of color?" Crump said.

Brown, 18, was unarmed and walking in the street with a friend on Aug. 9 when Wilson told them to move to the sidewalk. That led to a heated confrontation and a scuffle between Wilson and Brown inside Wilson's squad car.

Wilson shot Brown after the scuffle spilled into the street. Some witnesses said Brown was trying to surrender, but Wilson said Brown was moving toward him aggressively, forcing him to shoot.

How do we solve America’s racial issues?

Brown's shooting led to sometimes violent protests and spawned a national "Black Lives Matter" movement calling for changes in how police deal with minorities. In the end, local and federal authorities ruled that the shooting was justified.

A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Justice Department declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November. But the Justice Department released a scathing report citing racial bias and profiling in the Ferguson Police Department and a profit-driven municipal court system that frequently targets black residents.

However, a separate DOJ investigation found widespread practices of racial bias. The federal department released a scathing report blasting the city for racial bias, profiling in the police department, and a profit-driven municipal court system.

Several city officials resigned following the review, including the city manager, police chief and municipal judge. The municipal court clerk was fired for racist emails.

African-Americans make up 67 percent of the population of Ferguson, about 10 miles from downtown St. Louis. At the time of the shooting, only three of the city's 53 police officers were black and Ferguson's elected leaders were almost exclusively white.

Earlier this month, two black candidates were elected to the Ferguson City Council Tuesday, tripling African-American representation on the panel.

Civil cases in the U.S. generally require a lower standard of proof than criminal cases. Jurors must find a preponderance of evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt needed to convict in a criminal trial.

Two decades ago, football star O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. But a civil jury awarded the Brown and Goldman families $33.5 million in wrongful-death damages.

The family of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man killed by police in 1999, settled with New York City for $3 million in 2004 after filing a $60 million lawsuit. The city did not admit any wrongdoing. The settlement came after four officers indicted in his shooting were acquitted of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment.

Wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed in other recent high-profile cases, too.

In New York, the family of Eric Garner is seeking $75 million in damages. Garner, who was black and had asthma, died in July after a white plainclothes officer applied what a medical examiner determined was a chokehold after Garner was accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on a city street.


View CBS News In