US & Canada

Ferguson: Michael Brown parents sue authorities for 'wrongful death'

Attorney Anthony D. Gray speaks as Michael Brown's parents, Lesley McSpadden, second from left, and Michael Brown Sr., right, listen along with attorney Benjamin L. Crump, left, during a news conference 23 April 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption The family are seeking $75,000 in damages in the wrongful-death lawsuit

The parents of Michael Brown, whose shooting by police in the US city Ferguson sparked riots in August 2014, are suing the authorities.

The wrongful-death suit seeks a minimum of $75,000 (£50,000) compensation.

The shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old by white police officer Darren Wilson in Missouri became a national cause and sparked protests, some violent.

The shooting was reviewed by a grand jury, which decided in November not to charge Mr Wilson.

However, the family say they have new forensic evidence that raises questions about the police version of events.

Civil cases generally require a lower standard of proof than criminal cases. If the lawsuit does come to trial it could force Darren Wilson to testify in court.

"The narrative of the law enforcement all across the country for shooting unarmed people of colour is the same: That they had no other choice," attorney Benjamin Crump said.

"But time and time again, the objective evidence contradicts the standard police narrative."

Racial bias in Ferguson


of people arrested are African Americans, whereas only:


of Ferguson population is black

  • 96% of people arrested for outstanding municipal warrants are African American

  • 95% of "Manner of walking in roadway" charges were against black people

  • 90% of documented force was against African Americans

  • 30% of searches of white suspects resulted in a contraband finding - compared with 24% of black suspects

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Michael Brown's killing led to weeks of violent protests against the police in Ferguson

Along with seeking punitive damages from the City of Ferguson, the suit also calls for a court order prohibiting the use of police techniques "that demean, disregard, or under-serve its African-American population".

A St Louis County grand jury and the US Justice Department had declined to prosecute Mr Wilson, who resigned in November. He had argued that he was acting in self-defence.

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Media caption"I know I did my job right"

A scathing federal report by the US Department of Justice following the protests alleged widespread racial bias in the Ferguson justice system. The report led to several high profile resignations, including the chief of police.

This is not the only current civil case involving the police killing of an unarmed black man. In New York, the family of Eric Garner is seeking $75m in damages. Mr Garner's death sparked protests after a video was posted appearing to show a plain clothes officer choking him during an arrest.

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