Mother of late Duquesne student-athlete holds hunger strike

Photo by Hallie Lauer | Dannielle Brown, mother of J.B. Brown, holds a sit-in at Freedom Corner in the Hill District to open an independent investigation of her son’s death in 2018.

Staff Report | 07/10/2020

Dannielle Brown, mother of Duquesne University student Marquis Jaylen (“J.B.”) Brown, is on a hunger strike and sit-in at Freedom Corner in the Hill District to pressure authorities to reopen her son’s case.

Marquis Brown, 21, died after falling 16 stories from his apartment room window in Brottier Hall on Oct. 4, 2018. His death was ruled a suicide.

According to a February 2019 news release from the Pittsburgh Police, Marquis Brown had been acting “erratically” in Brottier Hall, and students called 911 as a result of his behavior. Duquesne University Police and campus security officers responded to the call at 10:05 p.m. and spoke to him and his roommate.

After the officers’ arrival, the news release states that Marquis Brown picked up a chair and broke a window. Four eyewitnesses – two Duquesne University Police officers, a campus security guard and a student Resident Assistant – stated that Brown jumped out the window.

Dannielle Brown and her attorney Lee Merritt met with representatives of Duquesne administration this week to discuss J.B.’s death.

“During that meeting, Duquesne shared details of its thorough investigation into the events of October 4 with the family, including by having the individuals who conducted the investigation available to meet with the family and discuss the findings.  The matter was separately investigated by the City of Pittsburgh Police,” the joint statement said.

According to the statement, “Ms. Brown still has additional questions about the circumstances of her son’s death. For that reason, in the interests of transparency, Duquesne University has offered to make available for in person review to Ms. Brown’s counsel and/or investigator its complete Duquesne University police file on this matter at a date to be arranged and to request that the City of Pittsburgh Police likewise share its entire file on the matter with her counsel and/or investigator.  Both parties are committed to transparency and resolution in a way that can celebrate and honor JB’s life and contributions.”

Dannielle Brown was not able to be reached for comment.

Dannielle Brown has also started a GoFundMe page to raise money for an independent investigation. Created Oct. 29, 2018; currently $21,590 has been raised.

A petition, started six days ago by an account called MOBB (Moms of Black Boys United) petitioned Duquesne for an immediate opening of an independent investigation to confirm the stated cause of death, an independent, forensic autopsy and expert review of the previous findings and reports to corroborate or dispute the presented version of events and complete transparency around all findings, including reports, witness accounts, video footage and pathology reports.

At the time of publication, the petition has 4,225 signatures.