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Michael Brown’s Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Ferguson

Former police chief and officer Darren Wilson named as co-defendants

Lesley McSpadden

Lesley McSpadden, mother of slain teenager Michael Brown Jr. The lawyer for Brown's parent has filed a wrongful lawsuit against the city of Ferguson.

Michael B. Thomas/Getty

Michael Brown’s parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, where their son was shot and killed by policeman Darren Wilson. The officer is named as a co-defendant in the suit, as is former police chief Thomas Jackson, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The lawyer for Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., filed the suit Thursday in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit, viewable as a PDF on the newspaper’s website, claims that police in Ferguson carried out a “pattern and practice of using unreasonable and excessive force.” It also contends that police “often escalate encounters” with African-Americans. The United States Justice Department made a similar conclusion, along with allegations of racial bias, but chose not to pursue charges of a civil rights violation against Wilson last month.

Wilson, who is white, shot 18-year-old Brown, who was black and unarmed, on August 9th of last year. The teenager’s death inspired widespread protests in the area, but a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson. The policeman resigned from the force in November.

Brown’s parents claim in the suit that Wilson’s rhetoric suggested racial bias, and have included a count of a civil rights violation against the officer and the police chief in their lawsuit. Wilson used “linguistic choices” that “indicate that he perceived [Brown] to be subhuman or animal-like,” according to the suit.

The newspaper reports that Brown family’s lawyer, Anthony Gray, said at a press conference that Wilson should have been indicted for the implications of comparing Brown to the Incredible Hulk and that the policeman’s account of the teenager’s death had changed at least five times since the shooting.

Gray was also critical of Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor who had presented the case to the grand jury that chose not to indict Wilson, according to CNN. “The evidence has not changed, but the presentation of that evidence will,” the lawyer said.

One count in the suit targets the city for not conducting a fair investigation into Brown’s death. It also alleges that Wilson used excessive force and deprived Brown of due process, both violations of the Constitution. Other counts target the city’s alleged policies of unreasonably detaining suspects and a pattern of depriving Ferguson residents of due process.

The family is seeking unspecified punitive damages from the suit, as well as $75,000 in compensatory damages for psychological treatment. It also wants an order to stop the city from using “patrol techniques that demean, disregard or underserve [the city’s] African-American population” and for the court to appoint a “compliance monitor” over the city to make sure that its police adhere to the constitutional requirements for the use of deadly force.

Gray had said he would file the lawsuit after the Justice Department decided not to charge Wilson.

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