The Slatest

Michael Brown’s Parents Seek Punitive Damages From Ferguson in Civil Lawsuit

Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother, on April 8 in New York City.

Andrew Burton/Getty

Michael Brown’s parents have filed a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson, and former Police Chief Thomas Jackson.

Brown was shot and killed by Wilson in August 2014.* The suit’s version of the interaction between Brown and Wilson seems to rely on the claims of Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, who said Wilson instigated a confrontation with Brown before shooting him while Brown was trying to surrender. A federal Department of Justice report released in March, however—despite finding extensive evidence of abusive and racially biased behavior by Ferguson police officers in other cases—specifically backed Wilson’s account of his interaction with Brown over Johnson’s account, describing Wilson’s claims as “credible.” Wilson says Brown attacked him and tried to take his gun while Wilson was still inside his police vehicle, then instigated Wilson’s use of deadly force by charging at him. The DOJ did not charge Wilson and attorney general Eric Holder said that from a federal criminal perspective Brown’s death “did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson.” (A local grand jury also declined to indict Wilson.)

The suit seeks a jury trial and the awarding of various damages and relief:

  • $75,000 in compensatory damages
  • Unspecified punitive damages
  • Unspecified damages for the loss of Brown’s companionship and his “future support” of his family
  • Unspecified damages for Brown’s suffering before death
  • An injunction against racially demeaning behavior by Ferguson police
  • The appointment of a monitor to supervise the police department’s use of force practices

The lawsuit does cite the DOJ investigation extensively to support the contention—which makes up the bulk of the suit’s 44 pages—that Wilson’s alleged instigation and escalation of his confrontation with Brown was part of a larger pattern of racially discriminatory and aggressive behavior by Ferguson police officers.

*Correction, April 23, 2015: This post originally misstated that Michael Brown was killed in 2013.