In an interview with the Riverfront Times’ Jessica Lussenhop, the family of slain St. Louis teen Michael Brown described him as a shy “gentle giant,” who had recently graduated high school and was spending the summer with his grandmother while he decided what his next step would be.
Brown’s family described him as quiet and a homebody, only recently coming out of his shell as he experienced positive feedback from songs he posted online in the hopes of becoming a famous rapper.
“He wasn’t a violent person. He was peaceful,” Elizabeth Spivey, Brown’s aunt, told Lussenhop. “He was a gentle giant. He looked like he could really do something but he wouldn’t. He was a big teddy bear.”
The unarmed Brown was shot by police Saturday afternoon in Ferguson, Missouri, setting off a wave of protests that have rippled through the community and spawned vigils in other cities, including one Sunday night in New York City’s Washington Square Park.
Police are currently investigating the shooting and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has instructed his department’s civil rights division to monitor developments in Ferguson.
The name of the police officer who shot Brown has not been released and he has been put on paid administrative leave during the investigation.
As news of the shooting spread, Twitter has exploded with hashtags related to Brown, as celebrities such as rap mogul Russell Simmons, Souljaboy, and Young Jeezy have taken to social media to talk about Brown, stating: “I am Michael Brown.”
According to his grandmother, Desuirea Harris, Brown was about to begin classes next week at Vatterott College, where he hoped to study music and sound engineering.
“He wanted to go there and do the music thing, he also wanted to go to another college because he wanted to play football. His coach at his school in Normandy said that he could do that, get into a college playing football,” said Harris.
Brown’s 21-year-old cousin, Anthony Livingston, said that the shy teen was quiet and didn’t have many friends, with a friend of the family pointing at his grandmother, indicating, “The only person he hung out with was her.”
Livingston said he is still trying to make sense of the events that led to his cousin’s death.
“I can’t believe it was him. It hurt real bad, because I gotta face his mother and his grandmother,” he said, adding. “He was just a kid. He had dreams, big dreams. All he wanted to do is make music.”
Brown’s family shared with Lussenhop a jar the aspiring rapper — who performed under the name “Big Mike” — filled with scraps of paper containing lyrics he had penned.
On one piece of paper he had written, “My city why people so petty/I rised from the Dead/now you can’t look me in my eyes.”
Photo courtesy of Jessica Lussenhop with permission from Michael Brown’s family.