Michael Brown Sr., the father of Ferguson police-shooting suspect Michael Brown, wrote a Father’s Day letter on Friday for theGrio.
Over the weekend, the emotional letter that recounts some memories as well as how Brown Sr. found out that his son had been shot, went viral.
From my perspective, as sorry as I feel for Brown Sr. that he lost his son, I still believe that if Michael hadn’t robbed a convenient store and then resisted arrest in the manner that he did, he would probably be alive today.
Here’s the letter:
I’d just hung up on my son, Mike Brown Jr.
The day was August 4, 2014. I was at the hospital with my wife, Cal. We’d been married only three weeks. She had been diagnosed with chronic heart failure. Shortly after hearing the news, Mike called my cell phone. He told me Cal was going to die.
“Man, you need to watch your mouth!” I said before hanging up.
Those were trying times, and I was in a no-nonsense mood. A month before our marriage, our house had burned down. We’d lost everything. Literally.
I couldn’t imagine things getting any worse.
Mike’s predicting my wife’s death came way out of left field for me. But that was Mike. He was a jokester, a dreamer, and an aspiring rapper. You know how it is with 18-year-olds; they think they’re grown and can say whatever they want, whenever they want. Sometimes, depending on what you’re going through, you just don’t have patience.
To be honest, sometimes it took me a minute or two to get Mike’s jokes or jive with his dreams. Like on April Fool’s Day last year, when he called to tell me he had a baby on the way. He hung up, leaving me fuming for the rest of the day.
He got his dad good with that one.
Mike would say things that would confuse me or piss me off. Then, after some time, I’d realize that when he said something, it usually had meaning. For example, on the day we celebrated his graduation from high school, he announced that he wanted to be a rapper. “That’s all fine and good,” I responded, “but you’re gonna stay in school and you’re gonna stay focused.”
He got angry and told the family, “One day, the world is gonna know my name. I’ll probably have to go away for a while, but I’m coming back to save my city.”
Like most parents, I wanted to support my child’s dreams, but I wanted him to be realistic, too.
How in the hell was I supposed to know Mike’s prediction would come true?
The same question applies to his call when I was at the hospital. A couple days after I hung up on him, Mike called another family member to explain what he had been trying to tell me: “Pop’s mad at me. Tell him I said what I said because I’ve been having these visions and images of death. Tell him I keep seeing bloody sheets.”
That conversation was on a Thursday. Two days later, on Saturday, August 9, around 12:15 p.m., my cell phone rang. It was Mike’s grandma on his mother’s side. Mike was staying with her for awhile before going off to college. She rarely calls me, so I answered quickly.
“Mike has been shot by a cop! He’s lying dead in the street,” she screamed hysterically.
I went into a state of denial instantly. No way! I defended. No! I could not possibly have heard what I thought I heard. My head exploded with one all-consuming thought: I’ve got to get to my son!
I don’t remember much: a vague recollection of the dreadful silence in the car as we weaved and zigzagged through traffic; a muddled memory of a large crowd as we pulled close to Canfield Drive, the narrow street where Mike spent many childhood days. Like a linebacker on a mission, I pushed my way through the massive crowd, ignoring the comments pinging off my head:
“He had his hands up!”
“It was cold-blooded murder!”
“Why they leaving him in the street like that?”
To this day, I don’t know how or why I didn’t explode into a murderous rage when cops held up their hands to stop me from getting to Mike.
“That’s my son!” I screamed over and over, as if those words would mean something.
They didn’t. I had to stand there like everyone else. Mike’s body was covered by that time. There I was, a semi truck’s length away from my son, seething with impotence and telling myself he wasn’t really dead. My mind insisted he was still alive under that ugly black tarp. I searched the eyes of policemen, praying that one of them—perhaps a cop with a child—would let me go hold my son’s hand while his body was still warm.
I’ve heard about soldiers who block out the intensity of warfare until after the battle? I think I slipped into that state of mind. A couple weeks later, as my son’s casket was lowered into the ground, I came out of my fog. Standing at that grave site, it got very, very real. My firstborn son—the kid I’d had when I was just a 17-year-old kid myself—was gone forever. Never again would I hear his voice, his often incomprehensible jokes, or his strange predictions.
Standing there, as they shoveled dirt on Mike’s casket, our last conversations blasted loud in my head. My boy hadn’t been talking about my wife’s condition on that day he’d called me at the hospital. He had been having visions of his own death.
And I couldn’t hear it.
As Father’s Day approaches, my emotions are like hot bubbles in a pot of boiling water—the disbelief, the rage, the grief crashing to the surface again and again. I miss my son. I’m still grieving.
I feel like those soldiers, I’ve read about, with PTSD who can’t stop the traumatic memories from invading their dreams or hijacking their every waking moment. Like some returning from war, I have no peace. I feel betrayed and angry. The character assassination didn’t just apply to Mike. There were many nasty, evil stories about Mike’s mom and me. According to the media, it was our fault that Mike was killed by a cop. On top of my grief, I had to deal with accusations that I was an “absentee father.”
What are your thoughts on the letter? Does it change the way you feel about the shooting?