Duquesne University to Provide Campus Police with Body Cams, Make Other Reforms
Reforms were prompted by the death of one of the school’s football players.
Pittsburgh — Duquesne University has agreed to three requests made by the mother of a football player who fell to his death from a private residence hall on campus October 4, 2018.
The Pittsburgh Police Department investigated the death of Marquis “JB” Brown, 21, and determined the football player smashed a chair through the dorm’s 16th floor window and then jumped through it, according to a press release from the city.
However, Brown’s mother, Dannielle, recently went on a hunger strike for more than two weeks, demanding an independent investigation and police reforms, reports WTAE. On Tuesday, the school agreed to her requests. Those requests include:
- A new independent investigation of her son’s death
- The school provide its officers with body-worn cameras
- The school provide crisis and mental health training to its officers
Just prior to JB’s death two years ago, university police and campus security responded to a complaint about noise coming from the room where the incident happened. KDKA reports that surveillance video confirmed and witnesses said JB was acting erratically in the elevator, hallway and his dorm room, which prompted the call to 911.
The investigation found that soon after officers arrived on scene, they tried to de-escalate the situation, but JB picked up a chair, smashed his dorm window and jumped to his death. Witnesses said there was no physical contact or confrontation between the officers and JB in the residence hall. Drug tests found he had marijuana in his system.
Here’s the letter from Duquesne University to Dannielle about its agreeing to her requests:
Duquesne has reached out to your attorney Lee Merritt to share that we are agreeable to all three of the requests you have made.
In agreeing to your requests, we are profoundly aware that nothing we do can bring JB back to you, or ease the grief that you, your family and all of us have experienced with JB’s passing.
But one thing we can do – and are committed to doing as the leadership of this University – is to honor JB’s memory. We look forward to working with you and your legal counsel to accomplish this goal in a meaningful way.
Simply put, we want you to be able to end your hunger strike, and to know that we care for you and for JB’s memory.
You and JB are, and always will be, an important part of the Duquesne family.
Yours in the spirit of Duquesne,
The Duquesne University Leadership Team
Dannielle, however, said Duquesne’s letter is a good start but she has more questions. She told KDKA that she wouldn’t end her hunger strike until she gets the answers she wants.
The school released the following statement on July 15 about the circumstances surrounding JB’s death and the investigation that followed:
On July 7, 2020, representatives of the Duquesne University administration invited the mother of Marquis (“JB”) Brown, Dannielle Brown, and her attorney, Lee Merritt, to a meeting after the University learned that Ms. Brown had more questions about the tragic passing in 2018 of her son JB, who was a talented student athlete at Duquesne.
During that meeting, in the interest of transparency, Duquesne shared details of an investigation it commissioned immediately after the events of October 4, 2018. That investigation was conducted by the law firm of Reed Smith LLP and was thorough. Multiple people were interviewed, including individuals who were with Brown that night, Brown’s roommate in Brottier Hall on Duquesne’s campus at the time of the incident, two Duquesne University Public Safety Officers, a security officer and a resident assistant.
The University also has decided to come forward with additional detail about this incident given the amount of false and misleading information that has been posted about it on social media. We sincerely hope that this additional detail helps bring clarity and closure to this tragedy for all those involved and impacted by it.
The investigation initiated by Duquesne revealed that on Thursday, October 4, 2018, Brown left his room on the 16th floor of Brottier Hall on Duquesne’s campus and went to a friend’s off-campus apartment to celebrate his 21st birthday, which was the previous day. Here, it is reported that he smoked marijuana. One individual present stated that it seemed as though “a switch had flipped” in Brown and friends who were present expressed concern for him.
Brown’s roommate stated that Brown returned to Brottier Hall around 10:00 p.m. Brown’s roommate said Brown entered the room as though someone had been chasing him and reported that Brown began knocking over furniture in his room and slamming against the walls.
Students in another unit on the 16th floor of Brottier contacted Duquesne’s campus security, reporting noise and a possible fight in Brown and Brown’s roommate’s room. Two Duquesne Public Safety Officers and a security officer responded to the call, arriving at Brottier shortly after 10 p.m. The two officers are retired police officers who have extensive experience and training in law enforcement; both are Black.
One of the officers knocked on the door of Brown’s room, Brown answered and the Duquesne Public Safety Officers and the security officer attempted to determine whether there had been an altercation and otherwise to assess the situation. Both Brown and Brown’s roommate denied a fight. Brown stated that he was celebrating that his mother had beaten cancer, which was untrue.
Brown left the room and went into the hallway. He was described as skipping and throwing his hands in the air. When Brown returned from his second trip down the hall, he entered the room. One of the officers encouraged Brown to stay calm and to sit down, while another officer was in the main room but talking to the roommate near the doorway to his bedroom.
As the DU Public Safety Officers were talking with Brown, Brown shocked the officers by suddenly grabbing a chair, breaking the window, and diving out without time for anyone to stop him.
One officer reported attempting to grab ahold of Brown on his way out, but reported that he believes he only touched Brown’s leg. Besides the two Public Safety Officers and the security officer, the accounts of the Resident Assistant and Brown’s roommate confirmed a similar sequence of events.
The amount of time between the officers’ arrival to the room and the window breaking was approximately ten minutes. At all times, the officers were attempting to deescalate the situation by staying calm, talking with Brown, not raising their voices, and attempting to keep matters in hand until reinforcements arrived.
At no time was there a confrontation with Brown. At no time did the officers threaten or use force of any kind with Brown. To the contrary, these public safety officers, who have extensive experience working with students on campus in a collegial and positive fashion, tried to help him and calm the situation for the safety of all.
The City of Pittsburgh Police separately investigated the incident and reached conclusions consistent with those of the Duquesne investigation. The toxicology report found marijuana in Brown’s system. The link to the City of Pittsburgh press release can be found here: http://www.pittsburghpa.gov/press-releases/press-releases.html?id=2640.
Efforts were made to determine the source of the drugs but were unsuccessful due to lack of cooperation.
Duquesne continues to mourn the loss of JB Brown and has reached out to help his family through this heartbreaking time. Many in the Duquesne community continue to feel the grief of this incident and Duquesne remains deeply committed to helping all, including the Brown family, the students who were present that night and those who knew and loved JB, as well as the officers who were present that night who worked diligently to protect all involved.
In the interests of transparency, Duquesne University has offered to make available for in-person review to Ms. Brown’s attorney and/or investigator its complete Duquesne University police file on this matter. It has also requested that the City of Pittsburgh Police make available for review its entire file on the matter to Ms. Brown’s attorney and/or investigator.