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Duquesne University 'Agreeable' To Mother's Request For New Independent Investigation Following Son's 2018 Death

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Duquesne University says it is "agreeable" to the three requests made by Dannielle Brown.

She has been on a hunger strike for more than two weeks, demanding reforms after the death of her son Marquis Brown.

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Dannielle has demanded that Duquesne University cooperate with a new independent investigation, obtain body cameras for university officers and provide crisis training to its officers.

In an open letter to Dannielle Brown on Tuesday, Duquesne says it can accommodate those requests and wants to end her hunger strike.

The mother went on the hunger strike hoping to catch the attention of Duquesne University, where her 21-year-old son was a student-athlete and junior when he died in 2018.

According to police, Marquis died after smashing a chair through a glass window in his campus dorm room and falling 16 stories to his death.

It happened after university police and campus security responded to a call about a noise complaint in the room.

Dannielle told KDKA's Jennifer Borrasso that the open letter was a start, but she still has more questions. Tuesday was the 18th day of her hunger strike at Freedom Corner.

"Four people did not keep my son safe. And that was negligent, that was never the question," said Dannielle. "I need to understand how negligent they were so I can help reform a system."

"I think their statement is in the right direction," Dannielle added. "I am very adamant about full access."

Dannielle still wants clarification and wants to talk further with Duquesne. She is determined to conduct a private investigation and believes there's more to the story about her son's death.

"I want to hear my son's narrative, not Duquesne narrative that the attorneys did as part of their investigation," said Dannielle. "They didn't speak to the mama. So it wasn't a thorough investigation."

Dannielle told KDKA's Jennifer Borrasso that there is no timetable for when her attorney, Lee Merrit, will reach out to Duquesne.

She does not plan on ending her hunger strike until she gets the answers she wants.

You can read the full open letter below.


Dear Dannielle,

Duquesne has reached out to your attorney Lee Merritt to share that we are agreeable to all three of the requests you have made.

In agreeing to your requests, we are profoundly aware that nothing we do can bring JB back to you, or ease the grief that you, your family and all of us have experienced with JB's passing.

But one thing we can do – and are committed to doing as the leadership of this University – is to honor JB's memory. We look forward to working with you and your legal counsel to accomplish this goal in a meaningful way.

Simply put, we want you to be able to end your hunger strike, and to know that we care for you and for JB's memory.

You and JB are, and always will be, an important part of the Duquesne family.

Yours in the spirit of Duquesne,

The Duquesne University Leadership Team

* * *


Duquesne University continues to mourn the loss of Marquis "JB" Brown. The University community still feels the grief of this incident. Duquesne remains deeply committed to helping his mother, Dannielle Brown, the entire Brown family, the students who were present that night and those who knew and loved JB, as well as the officers present that night.

Ms. Brown has made three requests of the University. The University has contacted her attorney, Lee Merritt, to indicate it can accommodate the requests in the hopes that these will help in Ms. Brown's grieving process in bringing a sense of closure to this tragedy. The requests are as follows:


First, Ms. Brown has requested that Duquesne University cooperate with a new investigation.

Ms. Brown has asked for an independent investigation of the events surrounding her son's death in 2018. Duquesne contacted Ms. Brown's attorney to reaffirm that it is willing to provide her attorney access to its Public Safety files and other evidence, including officer reports, video recordings from cameras in Brottier Hall, and dispatch and radio recordings in its possession, to facilitate an independent investigation.

The new investigation will be in addition to a thorough investigation conducted by the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and an independent investigation the University commissioned. The Pittsburgh Police investigation is here:

The University-commissioned independent investigation statement is here:
Duquesne has at all times offered the entire Brown family transparency regarding this incident, including an invitation to share the complete file and other materials in possession of the Duquesne University Public Safety Department with the family's attorney. Duquesne has asked the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police likewise to make available to the Brown family its full file and other materials for review.


Second, Ms. Brown has requested that Duquesne University obtain body cameras for its officers.

In collaboration with the union that represents its public safety officers, Duquesne will continue moving forward expeditiously to obtain body cameras. The University already had been exploring body cameras for its public safety officers. As a first stage, the University installed approximately 1,000 cameras already operating on campus. Research is ongoing to determine the best system for Duquesne. The University is committed to expediting the completion of stage 2 and providing body cameras for its officers.


Third, Ms. Brown has requested that Duquesne University provide training for its public safety officers in dealing with crisis and mental health situations.

Duquesne University Public Safety officers are highly skilled professionals trained for the distinctive conditions of community-engaged policing and safety practices. That training is constantly ongoing, and already involves de-escalation practices and crisis intervention skills. However, the University is willing to provide information to Ms. Brown's counsel regarding its existing training and to pursue and incorporate additional training programs for its Public Safety officers.

Duquesne is committed to expanding its efforts in this area to address new and evolving issues that present themselves on university campuses across the United States. The University will work with Ms. Brown's attorney to expand and enhance its efforts in this domain in honor of JB Brown.


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