As part of our series, “Policing in America: Five Years After Ferguson,” correspondent Jeff Pegues returns to Ferguson, Missouri, five years after the violence that followed the police shooting of an unarmed youth.
FERGUSON, Mo. — Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. An unarmed black teenager, he was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson, who said Brown attacked him. A grand jury later chose not to indict Wilson.
Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., tells CBS News’ Jeff Pegues he wants the case re-opened.
Brown told Pegues he’s not as angry as he once was, but it’s going to be hard to revisit that moment five years ago today when he found out his son was gone.
When asked what he recalls most vividly from that day, Brown said, “The phone call his grandmother gave me. Called me and said that police just shot Mike and he’s laying in the middle of the street.
“I turned to my wife and I told her that police just killed my son. And from there it just was all moving real slow.”
“How does a parent move on from something like that?” Pegues asked.
“I had to turn my pain into a purpose,” he replied.
In the years since his son’s death, Michael Brown Sr. says he’s been trying to honor his son’s memory, while also trying to “prepare myself for the anniversary.”
He started a foundation that includes a support group for fathers and children. He named it Chosen for Change, something he says has been lacking from local law enforcement.
When asked if he believed policing has changed in the last five years, Brown replied, “So-so.”
“You don’t think there’s been enough change?”
“No, it can be more.”
His most urgent plea? A second chance at justice for his son. He is asking that Wesley Bell, the new St. Louis County prosecutor, reopen the case.
Pegues first met Bell five years ago when he first made the leap into politics after protests in Ferguson. The next year he was elected to the city council.
And last summer, in a historic upset, Bell defeated longtime prosecutor Bob McCulloch to become St. Louis County’s first black prosecutor.
“I’m a living testament that change has been implemented in this region,” Bell said.
He said police still have more work to do, but programs like implicit bias training are a step in the right direction.
“There are many communities that have never had good relationships with officers,” Bell said. “And so when an officer pulls someone over, they have to understand that they’re dealing with all types of people, and be sensitive to that.”
Bell told Pegues that he will not comment publicly on re-opening the case “out of respect for the family and their tragic loss, as well as how sensitive this is to so many people in our region.”
Ferguson’s new police chief, Jason Armstrong, comes from a small Georgia police department. He’s only been on the job here for about five weeks, but he felt the impact of what happened here at his previous post.
“That incident was a catalyst for law enforcement in this country, myself included, even though I wasn’t here in Ferguson,” Chief Armstrong said. “That rippled the nation.”
Armstrong said he plans to gauge success of the department’s new training programs through community feedback.
“If I go to five meetings in one week, and people are telling me that they hate the police officers here, we’re doing something wrong,” he said. “So, we gotta be out there in the community trying to right these problems that we have.”
Local filmmaker Chris Phillips lived in the same neighborhood where Michael Brown was killed.
“When people come back and they ask me, ‘Has anything changed in five years,’ I’m, like, ‘No.’ I said, ‘In fact, they’re being more antagonistic than they were beforehand, you know?'” Phillips said. “I feel bad for the good cops that I do know, the ones that respect human life.”
As for Michael Brown Sr., he hopes the anniversary of his son’s death will bring the community together.
Pegues asked, “What do you want his legacy to be?”
“Just to never forget him,” Brown replied. “His spirit lives through me. All the things that I do is through the spirit of him.”
Later today, the foundation run by Michael Brown Sr. will host a news conference and memorial service, followed by several hours of community events. Throughout the weekend, a Michael Brown tribute exhibit will be open to the public at the Ferguson Empowerment Center.