Duquesne University Statement Regarding Brown Incident

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.  

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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