ST. LOUIS, Mo. — After spending days a half a world away, the parents of Michael Brown Jr. returned home Friday night, jet-lagged and weary, urging their anxious supporters to keep up their faith.
Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., parents of the unarmed black teen who was shot dead by a white police officer in August, were welcomed to a homecoming of handfuls of family, supporters and local community leaders in a secluded hall just off from the St. Louis airport baggage claim.
The pair had been away in Geneva, Switzerland, to speak before a United Nations committee to urge reforms on policing, all on the backdrop of a looming grand jury decision back home that will determine whether or not the officer who shot and killed their son (Darren Wilson) will be charged of a crime.
“I think the world understands my pain,” the slain teen’s father told reporters Friday night. “There’s a lot of people that went through the same situation, that [their] voices haven’t been heard.”
While the family was gone, the entire St. Louis region was abuzz, preparing for a grand jury decision to land. Law enforcement officials ironed out plans in the event of future unrest; local politicians assured the public that violence would not be tolerated; protest groups trained organizers on methods to de-escalate potential flare-ups.
The grand jury is expected to wrap up proceedings by mid- to late-November, but precisely when remains unknown. Dr. Michael Baden, the forensic pathologist hired by the family to conduct a private autopsy in August, was widely regarded as one of the last witnesses to appear before the grand jury, if not the final. He wrapped up his testimony Thursday afternoon.
Brown’s family has said repeatedly that they are praying for an indictment and want to see the teen’s case tried in open court. But conflicting accounts – those from police versus those from eyewitnesses – build a muddled picture of the events leading up to Brown’s Aug. 9 death.
By most accounts, Wilson and Brown engaged in a physical struggle through the window of the officer’s SUV, when, according to police, Wilson says the teen tried to grab for his gun. Forensic evidence, leaked to the media by unnamed sources, indicated that the first shots were fired during the initial struggle.
From there, Brown fled from the vehicle when he eventually stopped and turned around. Wilson fired a total of six bullets in Brown, with three of those shots leaving additional exit wounds in the teen’s body. According to six eyewitnesses, Brown had his hands raised in surrender once the final fatal shots landed.
The unarmed teen was black; the police officer who shot him was white. For many residents in this mostly African-American suburb of St. Louis, those details of Brown’s case were all that mattered.
The Brown family said their trip to Geneva was to tap into the tensions between communities and police forces by shoring up international awareness to problems of police profiling in the United States. They were joined by more than 70 representatives and organizations to appeal before the United Nations Committee Against Torture as it reviewed the U.S.’s compliance compliance with the Convention Against Torture, an international treaty outlined to prevent torture or cruel punishment throughout the world.
McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. join an expanding list before them of grieving parents who have appealed to the international community while mourning the loss of a young black son who became the victim of gun violence.
The parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis — two young black teens, both from Florida, both shot and killed in 2012 — made their own trip to Geneva in August to speak before the United Nations and say their boys were victims of racial discrimination.
Once home, McSpadden fought back tears as she thanked her supporters, and made one final appeal: “Keep the faith,” she said. “Keep the faith.”