Marquis ("J.B.") Brown was a valued member of the Duquesne community. Since his tragic and untimely death in 2018, Duquesne University has offered assistance to and has responded to the requests of his mother, Dannielle Brown.
Following J.B.'s death, both Duquesne University and the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police made information available to Ms. Brown, her family and her attorney concerning the circumstances of her son's tragic death. The University was advised that the lead detective who handled the City's investigation met with Ms. Brown and the Brown family multiple times and, in November 2018, the lead detective offered to review the file with Ms. Brown's attorney. However, the detective received no response.
For the next year and a half, neither Ms. Brown nor her attorney sought additional information from Duquesne. During this time period, representatives of the University were in regular contact with Ms. Brown about a variety of matters, including dedicating a bench in J.B.'s honor at the football field and making a special presentation of his championship ring at the annual football banquet, an event that Ms. Brown attended in person. During none of these occasions did Ms. Brown request additional information from the University.
When Ms. Brown traveled to Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh and issued three demands just over a month ago, this was the first time Duquesne learned that she wanted more information and wished to conduct a third investigation of her own. Duquesne immediately arranged an in-person and socially distanced meeting with Ms. Brown and her attorney to review in detail the results of the investigation it commissioned into J.B.'s death. After that meeting, Ms. Brown indicated that she wanted more information, so Duquesne next agreed to share Duquesne University's Public Safety Office file with her through her attorney. Duquesne has been in regular communication with her lawyer to arrange for the provision of that file. The file is ready and waiting to be shared as soon as Ms. Brown's lawyer returns the relevant paperwork. Ms. Brown had two additional demands: body cameras and additional training for its officers. Duquesne agreed to expeditiously seek to procure body cameras for its officers to add additional training, to satisfy Ms. Brown's other two demands and to bring closure to this matter.
The University has since learned that Ms. Brown has added a new demand in addition to her original three demands. Ms. Brown now has communicated that she is making a substantial monetary demand of the University. Such a payment is not warranted by the facts; the Duquesne University Public Safety Officers acted appropriately, and there are multiple witnesses to support the findings of the City of Pittsburgh investigation as well as the independent investigation commissioned by Duquesne.
The key facts bear repeating: Immediately following this 2018 incident, Duquesne commissioned a separate and independent investigation. (For a fuller recitation of the underlying facts, see Duquesne University's July 15, 2020 statement at https://www.duq.edu/news/releases/duquesne-university-statement-regarding-brown-incident). The evidence showed this was not a case of police misconduct or negligence. The police who came onto the scene, after students reported a disruption and a possible fight, are well-trained and experienced. Once they arrived, they encountered a young man who was acting strangely and causing concern among other students. Asked what was going on in the room, J.B. explained that he was celebrating his mother beating cancer, which was later determined to be untrue. Throughout the incident, the officers responded by trying to calm the situation. They are highly experienced in dealing with students in a calm and positive way. They did not use force or threats of force; rather they worked to deescalate the situation and keep everyone safe. This was confirmed by multiple witnesses. Unfortunately, the young man shocked everyone when he suddenly smashed the window with a chair and propelled himself out of the window, a fall that eventually led to his death. The City of Pittsburgh Police reported that testing confirmed the presence of drugs in his system. Duquesne's own investigation confirmed that J.B. had gone off campus to celebrate his 21st birthday at the apartment of a friend, and ingested drugs there, before returning to his building on campus.
These facts are tragic. However, there is absolutely no evidence of the Public Safety Officers acting inappropriately in any fashion. Unfortunately, this matter will have to be resolved by the courts and the legal process if Ms. Brown wishes to pursue litigation.
Duquesne continues to grieve for the entire family over this tragedy and to care for the health and safety of Ms. Brown. The University hopes that she finds closure by learning more about the facts after reviewing the Duquesne's Public Safety file.
The following questions have been raised on social media, as well as in calls and emails to the University. In order to correct misconceptions and misinformation, the University is providing brief responses, as follows:
QUESTION: Why has there been a delay in providing answers to Ms. Brown about the circumstances
surrounding her son's death?
ANSWER: Duquesne University and the City of Pittsburgh Police, who conducted the investigation, provided information to Ms. Brown and her family immediately following the tragic incident. The City of Pittsburgh Police report regarding the death of J.B. Brown was issued on February 4, 2019. That report summarized the circumstances that led to his death and identified that the toxicology report revealed marijuana in his system. That report can be found here: https://pittsburghpa.gov/press-releases/press-releases.html?id=2640. The University interacted with Ms. Brown over the next year in myriad ways, seeking to assist her and to honor J.B.'s legacy. At no time did Ms. Brown indicate that she sought additional information or material from the University. It was not until she arrived on Freedom Corner, just over a month ago, and issued her three demands, that the University became aware that she wanted more information. The University immediately set up a meeting with Ms. Brown and her attorney, and reviewed key facts that were established in the independent investigation commissioned by the University. When she asked for more information, the University agreed to share its public safety file with her, through her attorney, and has been in contact with her counsel regarding the transmittal of that file.
QUESTION: Why didn't the University turn over the file to Ms. Brown immediately when
she asked for it?
ANSWER: The University is required to follow the federal and state law before it can do this. Ms. Brown is represented by an attorney, the University must work through her attorney, and it has been doing so diligently. There are privacy laws that apply to certain material in the requested file. In this case, the file includes information regarding various students. These issues have been resolved, and the file is ready and waiting to be shared with Ms. Brown's lawyer as soon as he returns the relevant paperwork.
QUESTION: Why did the University's earlier statement make reference to the fact that
both Public Safety Officers who responded to the scene are Black?
ANSWER: That fact was included because the University received a number of calls and emails early asking for this detail and questioning whether this involved white police officers who were motivated by a racial animus, or whether this was a case of excessive force against J.B. because he was Black. All of this was patently false and unfounded. There was no confrontation or use of force at any time.
QUESTION: Where did the drugs come from that J.B. ingested?
ANSWER: The University has been unable to determine where the drugs came from and whether they may have contained some other substance. Anyone with information on this matter should contact campus police or the City of Pittsburgh police with this information.
The University does not plan to comment further on this matter. All future questions should be directed to Ms. Brown's attorney, consistent with the rules that govern matters in litigation.
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