As Dannielle Brown began day 40 of her hunger strike to get answers on the 2018 death of her son Marquis Jaylen “JB” Brown, Duquesne University held a press conference Wednesday to argue it was doing what it could to respond.
It was the first press conference Duquesne has held since Brown arrived in Pittsburgh in July, and attorneys Dave Fawcett and Jason Hazlewood maintained throughout that this was not a case of police misconduct. Brown died in a fall from the window of a Duquesne dormitory, with Duquesne police officers on the scene. The school has said he broke the window himself and jumped out of it.
“The Duquesne University public safety officers acted appropriately," Hazlewood said, "and there are multiple witnesses to support the findings of a City of Pittsburgh investigation, an independent investigation commissioned by the case.”
“What occurred in the loss of JB Brown was terribly tragic,” Fawcett said. “But what JB did that night that caused his death was also completely shocking to everyone. No one could have foreseen what occurred.”
Hazlewood said the school and Pittsburgh Police made information about the incident available to Brown and her attorney in November 2018 but did not receive a response.
“For approximately the next year-and-a-half, neither Ms. Brown or her attorney sought additional information from Duquesne,” Hazlewood told reporters. “During this time, representatives of the university were in regular contact with Miss Brown on a variety of matters, including dedicating a bench in JB's memory and making a special presentation of his championship ring at the annual football banquet event that Ms. Brown attended in person.”
Brown said she had made it clear during those events that she had more questions about her son’s death.
“Each time I made a public appearance over these last 22 months, I shared that I wasn’t agreeable with what the school was telling me,” she said. “The school is now just responding to me because I’m starving at their front door.”
Brown began her hunger strike at Freedom Corner in the Hill District, but recently began sitting at the entrance of Duquesne University.
The attorneys also claimed that Brown has made “a substantial monetary demand of the university.”
“No such payment is warranted,” Hazlewood said.
Brown said that’s not true.
“There's no been no request for money. They offered money, but the money was insulting. So I turned their money and offer down,” she said. “My son’s life is so much more valuable than what they offered, which a household family would make in a year.”
The school also announced it would release the files to Brown as soon as her attorney signs off. But Brown has switched attorneys, and Duquesne says it's waiting for her new lawyer to receive the information from her prior attorney, and fill out the necessary paperwork.
Brown said the school is only giving her pieces of information on her son’s death, and she wants full access.
“What’s in the files may lead me to have to go to the housing files, or the administration files, or the athletic department files, or other records,” she said. “It’s going to consistently be red tape. I want full access without stipulations.”