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.
What happened when Michael Brown met Officer Darren Wilson? A timeline from both perspectives.
updated 2:24 PM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Police Chief Thomas Jackson issued a video apology to the parents of Michael Brown and peaceful protesters.
updated 9:11 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Two men, shocked at what they saw, describe an unarmed teenager with his hands up in the air as he's gunned down by a police officer.
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 12:42 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
The QuikTrip that's now in shambles, its iconic red awning a nest of twisted metal, was once a favorite stop for residents here.
updated 8:24 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
At least 212 people have been arrested over nearly two weeks of clashes with police in. A lot has been said about the fact that just a handful of them were actually from Ferguson.
updated 10:58 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
The fate of Darren Wilson -- the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who killed Michael Brown -- is heading to a jury.
updated 12:48 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Questions are being asked about the man who at the moment is responsible for pursuing any prosecution and whether he can be impartial.
updated 9:44 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Mike Knox, owner of Freestyle Barber & Beauty in Ferguson, Missouri, said police have pulled him over twice for what he calls "DWB" -- driving while black.
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.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
If adults are having trouble talking openly about race and class, it's easy to see why some parents are either afraid, uncomfortable or unwilling to bring the topics up with their children.
A Flipboard magazine of CNN's coverage of the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown.
updated 10:03 AM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
I am a mother who watched her mother bury her only son.
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
See photos of the protests currently unfolding 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