Skip to main content

Missouri teen shot by police was two days away from starting college

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: On Facebook, Michael Brown said he liked the St. Louis Rams and Kanye West
  • The 18-year-old was to start technical college classes Monday
  • A police officer shot him over the weekend; authorities are investigating the case
  • Father tells CNN: "He was a leader. He knew what he wanted out of life"

(CNN) -- Monday was supposed to be Michael Brown's first day at technical college. Instead, his parents were planning his funeral.

The 18-year-old was shot by a police officer in a St. Louis suburb on Saturday, sparking a federal civil rights inquiry, local protests and national debate.

One side says the African-American teenager was surrendering, his hands in the air to show he was unarmed, when the officer opened fire. Authorities counter that Brown had attacked the officer in his car and tried to take his gun.

His parents and their lawyer say they don't believe the police account of what happened. They describe Brown as someone who steered clear of violence.

Michael Brown's friend describes shooting
Police Chief: Michael Brown was 'unarmed'
Mom: 'You took my son away from me'
Teen shooting in Missouri sparks riots
Ferguson mayor: Remain calm
Police chief: 'We can get to the truth'

"He was funny, silly. He would make you laugh. Any problems that were going on or any situation, there wasn't nothing he couldn't solve. He'd bring people back together," his father, Michael Brown Sr., told reporters.

Family members nicknamed him the "gentle giant."

For teachers, he was "a student who loomed large and didn't cause trouble," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Friends and family said the teenager was ecstatic about starting classes at Vatterott College.

"He looked forward to it so much. You didn't have to tell him, 'Make sure you get to school.' He was ready," mother Lesley McSpadden told CNN.

And he was proud to be setting an example for his younger siblings.

"He was a leader. He knew what he wanted out of life," his father said. "He was a good kid."

He hoped to become a heating and cooling engineer, working on air conditioning, attorney Benjamin Crump, who's representing the teen's family, told reporters.

"Everyone else wanted to be a football player, a basketball player," friend Gerard Fuller told the Post-Dispatch. "He wanted to own his own business. He'd say, 'Let's make something out of nothing.'"

Just a credit shy of graduating high school in May, he earned his diploma on August 1.

On graduation day, he told friends he was relieved, according to the newspaper.

"He said he wasn't going to end up like some people on the streets. He was going to get an education," Hershel Johnson, a friend of Brown's, told the Post-Dispatch. "He was going to make his life a whole lot better."

On Facebook, Brown said he liked the St. Louis Rams, Kanye West's music and comedies including "House Party" and "Scary Movie II."

Now a message from a friend posted on Facebook describes Brown as a someone who "was always there for anybody he knew."

In a Facebook message to a friend last week, Brown wrote: "If I leave this earth today, at least you'll know I care about others more than I cared about my damn self."

Brown had been spending the summer with his grandmother, Desuirea Harris.

"He was a good kid. He didn't live around here," she told CNN affiliate KMOV. "He came to visit me and they did that to him for no reason."

Crump said Brown was doing the right things, finishing high school and planning for his career ahead. His parents were planning to drop him off at college on Monday.

"And instead of celebrating his future, they are having to plan his funeral and talk to attorney (Anthony) Gray and I about second autopsies," Crump said.

At a press conference on Monday, the teenager's parents tearfully described their son to reporters, holding up a photograph showing him as a toddler.

"He was a good boy," his father said. "He didn't deserve none of this."

They asked for supporters to remain peaceful -- something they said their son would have wanted.

"No violence," McSpadden said. "Just justice."

What we know about the shooting

CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin, Wolf Blitzer and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Follow our complete coverage of the protests and aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
updated 7:32 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The father of Michael Brown spoke to supporters urging calm ahead of an expected decision from a St. Louis County grand jury.
updated 10:01 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Michael Brown, is in the final stages of negotiations with city officials to resign.
updated 7:35 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Ferguson, Missouri, is bracing for a decision from the grand jury in the case of Michael Brown. What are the possible charges for Officer Wilson?
updated 5:50 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Ahead of the grand jury's decision, Missouri has both called in the National Guard and diminished the role of the Ferguson Police Department.
updated 4:19 AM EST, Fri November 7, 2014
With a grand jury decision expected soon, Ferguson's mayor is telling authorities to expect tensions to heat back up.
updated 10:18 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Michael Brown's gunshot wounds included a shot in the hand at close range, his official autopsy shows.
updated 11:15 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
The world awaits word from a grand jury determining whether charges should be brought against a police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown.
What happened when Michael Brown met Officer Darren Wilson? A timeline from both perspectives.
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
As tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, have bubbled, one official after another has taken the lead, grappling to figure out how to stop it from coming to a boil.
updated 6:19 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
As protests continue to rage over the killing of Michael Brown, conflicting accounts and police reticence have made it difficult to ascertain what exactly happened.
A Flipboard magazine of CNN's coverage of the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown.
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
See images of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
"He was funny, silly. He would make you laugh. He'd bring people back together," his father, Michael Brown Sr., told reporters.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT