It’s been three long years, but former Ball State University linebacker Wendell Brown arrived home to Detroit early Wednesday morning after being spending time behind bars in a Chinese prison following a bar fight he’s asserted he was defending himself in.
A host of news cameras captured the moment Brown, a football coach and English language teacher, reunited with his family at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on Sept. 24.
“Thank you all so much; I love you all so much,” he said according to Fox 2 Detroit between hugging his mother and grandmother. “We can smile, we can laugh, we don’t have to cry no more!”
Speaking to the news station, Brown remained thankful to be home in the U.S.
“After all these years of pain and suffering I finally get to celebrate with my family,” he said. “I’m home. I’m back on American soil, glory be to God! It’s a celebration.”
Brown told Yahoo Sports it was his faith that kept him going during the long process that kept him away from his family for two Thanksgivings after he was locked away in a Chongqing, China, prison in September 2016.
“The lesson from this is to always have faith in God,” the former athlete said. “Always believe in his power that he can do all things. If you believe fully and give yourself to the will of God then greatness awaits you on the other side. My family feels it every day. I feel it every day. We are stronger because of this. Our faith was tested and we never lost hope. We always believed. And because of our belief, I am standing here today.
Brown was involved in a bar fight as he was out celebrating a pal’s birthday at a party. The ex-Canadian Football League player maintained he was defending himself from a bottle attack by a man by pushing away the alleged culprit. Still, the Detroit Free Press reported Brown was charged with intentional assault. After that, it was a long journey toward Brown’s road to freedom, during which time he missed out on his now-12-year-old son’s birthdays.
The former CFL player spent almost two years imprisoned in Chongqing. By June 2018, he was sentenced to four years behind bars. But thanks to restitution that was backed by Ball State alums in a GoFundMe as well as with Fox Sports host Jason Whitlock’s $50,000 donation, Brown got his sentence reduced to three years in November 2018. His release on Sept. 24 comes three years to the day that the incident that changed his life forever occurred.
As for what Brown plans to do now that he’s back home, WXYZ reported he’s uncertain but he simply desires to spend time with his family.
“It was just so good seeing him, being able to hug him,” said his mother Antoinette Brown, to the outlet. “I just couldn’t let go, I said, ‘I hope I don’t break him.'”