Civil Rights Attorney Questions Report Suggesting Marijuana Caused Duquesne University Football Star to Jump to His Death

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A Duquesne University student-athlete who died after jumping from a 16th floor window of a campus dormitory last year had marijuana in his system, Pittsburgh Police announced Monday, releasing the findings of their investigation into the young man’s death.

Prominent civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt argued the report raises more questions than answers, however.

Marquis Brown
Police said Marquis Brown picked up a chair and broke a window before jumping to his death on Oct. 4. (Image courtesy of S. Lee Merritt / Instagram)

Police determined Marquis Jaylen Brown, a running back for the university’s football team, jumped to his death on Oct. 4 after shattering his dorm room window at Brottier Hall. According to investigators, the 21-year-old returned to the building around 10 p.m. after visiting a friend’s off-campus apartment. Witnesses and surveillance video indicate Brown starting behaving erratically in the elevator and his dorm room, police said.

In their report, authorities said university police and campus security officials responded to a 911 call from students about a possible fight between roommates but determined there wasn’t a fight after realizing Brown’s roommate was only trying to calm him down. Officers arrived at the apartment at 10:05 and spoke with Brown and his roommate.

Shortly after getting there, however, authorities said the athlete picked up a chair and broke a window. Witnesses, including a campus security guard and a student resident assistant, said Brown subsequently leaped out of the window. His roommate, who was in another room, was an audible witness to the incident.

There was no confrontation or physical contact between Brown and officers in the room, witnesses told police.

“The Duquesne University community is deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred on campus on Thursday, Oct. 4, during which Marquis Jaylen Brown, a student athlete on the University’s football team, died after a fall from the 16th floor of Brottier Hall,” the college  said in a statement Monday night.

University officials said the campus will continue offering counseling and support services to  students, faculty and other staff during this time.

“The thoughts and prayers of the entire University go out to Marquis’s family, friends, teammates and coaches during this time of great sadness,” the statement added. Police have shuttered their investigation pending any additional evidence.

Merritt, who’s represented the families of police shooting victims Botham Jean and Jordan Edwards and is now representing the Brown family, has his doubts about the circumstances surrounding the young man’ death and accused police of not conducting a thorough investigation.

The attorney took to Instagram to air his frustrations, writing, “Pittsburgh PD just released a report insinuating that marijuana (not laced, synthetic or altered) caused this beautiful young man to jump out of his dormitory window 16 stories to his death. Their feckless four month ‘investigation’ has created more questions than answers.”

Lee went on to question how three trained officers were unable to prevent a young Black man in crisis from jumping out of the window, and wondered if investigators had considered what role a recent concussion and possible CTE, a degenerative brain disease in people with repeated head trauma, had played in Brown’s mental state.

“What steps did Duquesne, it’s football program and/or the NCAA take to prevent this tragedy?” he asked. “I am deeply disturbed by so many details of the tragedy, but we will get to the bottom of it. This deserves every consideration and review imaginable. Jaylen deserves that.”

Watch more in the video below.

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