By Brandie Piper and John Bacon
Published April 23, 2015 on USAToday.com.
CLAYTON, Mo. — The family of an unarmed black teen who was fatally shot by a white police officer on a Ferguson, Mo., street filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday against the city of Ferguson, former police chief Thomas Jackson and former officer Darren Wilson.
Lawyers for Michael Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., challenged the explanation of the shooting presented by Wilson, who resigned from the force four months after the August confrontation.
“He wants us to believe he was a 5-year-old sitting in his patrol car … and was attacked by Hulk Hogan,” lawyer Anthony Gray said Thursday, calling Wilson’s explanation “concocted.”
“America cannot continue to sanction the killings of unarmed people of color,” lawyer Benjamin Crump added. “We see these narratives just being accepted.”
Wilson has said the confrontation began when he rolled up behind Brown, 18, and another man and asked them not to walk in the street. Soon the confrontation escalated, and Wilson says Brown reached into the car, with the two men wrestling over a gun.
Wilson said he shot Brown several times after Brown, having started to flee, turned and charged the officer.
The shooting ignited months of sometimes violent protests. In November, a St. Louis County grand jury decision not to indict Wilson on any charges in Brown’s death sparked more protests.
The suit alleges Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights through “unlawful detention and the use of excessive and deadly force.” It also accuses the city and Jackson of failing to hire, train, supervise, retain, and conduct a fair and impartial investigation, alleging the police department “had a custom or policy of negligently hiring and retaining officers, failing to property train and/or supervise officers in the use of deadly force.”
Jackson is also accused of civil rights violations by employing Ferguson police officers who used “unjustified, unreasonable, and illegal use of excessive force, including deadly force.”
Wilson is accused of making an unconstitutional stop and/or detention and use of excessive force against Brown, who was walking down a street when he was stopped by Wilson on Aug. 9.
A call to Wilson’s lawyer was not immediately returned. Jeff Small, a spokesperson for the city of Ferguson, said city officials will not comment on pending litigation.
After the local grand jury declined to charge Wilson, the U.S. Justice Department reviewed the case and decided not to press civil rights charges against the officer. A Justice Department report, however, found numerous instances of racial bias within the Ferguson Police Department.
Since the Department of Justice reports were released, several Ferguson officials have resigned, including Police Chief Tom Jackson, Judge Ronald Brockmeyer and City Manager John Shaw.