Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Suspicious Death of Marquis Brown

Duquesne football player Marquis Brown dies after jumping from window

Marquis Brown was a 21 year-old student-athlete at Duquesne University when he died under suspicious circumstances on October 4th, 2018. The evening of his death began as a fairly typical evening for a college student. After having football practice that afternoon, Marquis reportedly went to get a haircut before going to a friend's off-campus apartment to play video games on PlayStation. This seemingly normal evening quickly went in another direction when Marquis returned to his dorm building. Other students in the dorm building called 911 after witnessing Marquis behaving 'erratically' in the elevator and in the hallway of this dorm room on the 16th floor. 

University security and police responded to the 911 call shortly after 10pm. Once they arrived on the scene, they found Marquis' roommate trying to calm him down. From there, the events leading up to Marquis' death remain unclear. Pittsburgh police stated that, shortly after campus police arrived on the scene, Marquis picked up a chair and threw it through the dorm window before jumping out of the window himself and falling sixteen stories to his death. Pittsburgh police arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and subsequently took over the investigation into Marquis' death.

The initial reports following this incident stated that witnesses including both students and campus police saw Marquis jump out of the window. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was blunt force trauma--but the manner of death remained undetermined. A toxicology report concluded that Marquis had marijuana in his system at the time of his death, but no other substances are noted on the report. 

The toxicology findings led to the insinuation that marijuana is what caused Marquis to behave erratically on the night of his death. However, Marquis' family members doubt that this is the case. After this report went public, a lawyer representing Marquis' family tweeted, "It took four months for Pittsburgh police to produce a report that insinuates marijuana caused an athlete in the prime of his life to jump 16 stories to his death from his dorm room window. This feckless report creates more questions than answers."

As time continued to pass, Marquis' loved ones grew increasingly more frustrated with the lack of answers in his case. Finally, in July 2020, Marquis' mother Dannielle Brown decided to take drastic action to demand answers.

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In early July, Dannielle decided to travel from her home in Washington, DC to the Duquesne campus in Pittsburgh to demand answers about her son's death. Dannielle went on a hunger strike and began spending her days and nights on Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh's Hill District in hopes of catching the attention of Duquesne University. She told reporters that she was hoping for a new investigation into her son's death. Dannielle explained, "Bottom line is, either you watched my son go out that window or your hands were on my son when he went out that window." 

Dannielle Brown in Pittsburgh. Image source: KDKA

Not only does Dannielle want more answers about her son's death, she is also calling for change to the ways that campus police officers handle cases such as Marquis'. She has publicly made a request for three things: a new investigation into her son's death, a requirement for campus police officers to wear body cameras, and for the campus police to undergo more thorough de-escalation training. 

On July 22nd, 2020, it was finally announced that Duquesne University will honor Dannielle's requests. The university wrote an open letter to Marquis' family describing how each of the requests will be honored. The letter can be read in-full here. Marquis' loved ones are hoping that the new investigation will provide clearer answers about his death. The investigation is currently ongoing. 

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