FERGUSON, Missouri — In his first public comments since it was announced that a grand jury did not indict the police officer that shot and killed his son, Michael Brown Sr. said he is emotionally torn but more committed than ever to keeping his son’s name alive.
“My emotions are all over the place. I don’t know what to feel. I’m just, I’m just here. I’m empty off of what happened,” Brown Sr. said in a back room at Greater St. Mark Family Church on Tuesday afternoon. “The whole thing with the death of my son and the verdict. I’m just crushed.”
Brown Sr.’s words, the first he’s offered publicly since the grand jury’s decision sparked looting and burning in Ferguson over night, were measured and at times halting.
“I was just stunned,” Brown said of the grand jury’s decision in an interview with msnbc host the Rev. Al Sharpton.
“This prosecutor changed all the rules," Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump told Sharpton. "He said we’re going to get all the information to the grand jury, we’re not going to recommend any charges and we’re just going to let the jury figure it out on their own,” Crump said. “Which almost suggests if you do that to lay people and don’t give them any direction you can predict the result. They're not going to be able to figure out anything.”
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Time and again in the lead up to the grand jury’s decision, Brown Sr. had called for peace regardless of the outcome.
On Monday night, as the grand jury’s decision was being read by St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, Brown’s mother, Leslie McSpadden joined hundreds of supporters outside of Ferguson police headquarters. She stood atop a platform, visibly grief stricken. “You know what them bullets did to my son!” she told the crowd through tears spilling down from behind a pair of large, dark sunglasses. “I ain’t never had to go through nothing like this.”
She fell into her husband’s, Louis Heads’ arms, grief stricken and sobbing with her hands covering her face. At one point Head screamed out, “Burn this muthafucka down! Burn this bitch down!” he said over and again.
Not long after, along S. Florissant Ave. in front of the police station and a couple miles away on W. Florissant Ave. not far from where her son was killed, crowds of young people did just that. Police cars went up in a blaze. More than a dozen businesses had their windows smashed or were set on fire. There were also a number of peaceful protests in Ferguson and around the country.
After more than 100 days of mostly peaceful and sustained protests, the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision was a fiery throwback to the first few days after Brown was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
The Rev. Carlton Lee, Michael Brown Sr.’s pastor, said the last three months have been extremely tough for Brown’s parents. “Right now he still wants peace but at the same time he’s full of pain, full of hurt. You lost your namesake, your namesake was stanched away from you for whatever reason,” Lee said minutes after the family, Rev. Sharpton, their attorneys and a gaggle of supporters held a press conference in which they decried the prosecutor’s handling of the case and denounced the violence in its wake. “It was several slaps in the face to the Brown family ... they are still getting slapped in the face.”
Brown Sr. said that he feels his son’s character was assaulted during the months leading up to the grand jury’s decision, and Wilson’s testimony before the grand jury, released as part of an evidence dump following the decision, unfairly vilified his son. “The only person that can really talk for him is me and his mom and at this point you’re right, he can’t defend himself. He’s buried,” Brown Sr. said. “They crucified his character. For people that don’t even know my son … the things that they are saying it’s just terrible. It’s terrible.”
His son was a good guy, a quiet guy, Brown Sr. said.
“The things that’s going on that’s not my son,” he said of the violence. “So in his name I want to keep it on a positive note. I guess those are the issues that I want to keep pushing forward so the world will know that we’re going to stay positive through all of this.
“I’m not stopping,” he said. “Can’t stop.”