Who Was Michael Brown?

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Ferguson police identified Wilson at the same time they released a video of an alleged theft showing Brown snatch some cigars in a convenience store just minutes before he was killed. In the video, Brown is shown grabbing a clerk by the shirt and forcefully pushing him into a display rack.

Brown’s family angrily denounced that video as character assassination.

They’ve portrayed Brown as “a gentle giant,” who liked to post photos on his Facebook page of himself with young relatives, a kid who tried football his sophomore year but abandoned the idea before his first game, fearing he might hurt someone.

“He was funny, silly,” his father, Michael Brown Sr., said. “Any problems that were going on or any situation — there wasn’t nothing he couldn’t solve. He’d bring people together.”

Tim Sneed, a 23-year-old neighbor of Brown’s grandmother, says the young man was so low-key he seemed almost invisible. “When he came to my house you wouldn’t even notice he was there,” he says. “That’s how quiet he was.”

Brown had been staying at the apartment of his grandmother, Desuirea Harris, this summer. She said Brown was excited about his future.

“My grandson never even got into a fight,” she says. “He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.”

Brown was preparing to attend Vatterott College, where he planned to study to become a heating and air-conditioning technician.

Kennedy, his teacher, says Brown had to break free from being around kids who “caused him to be in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot of times. …. He had been around too many thugs.”

After the two had many talks, Kennedy says, Brown became more serious and was the first one at school at 7 a.m. “Mike was getting ready to do something with his life,” he adds.

As friends and family prepare for Brown’s funeral, a memorial stands on Canfield Drive at the site of the shooting. A sign reads: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot, Aug. 9, 2014, RIP Michael Brown.”

Brown’s great uncle, pastor Charles Ewing, who will deliver the eulogy, remembers a conversation he had with his nephew.

“He said, ‘One day the whole world is going to know my name.’ Isn’t that something? Not knowing that this was going to happen, and that’s what touched me — ‘the whole world will know my name.’ “

Sharon Cohen reported from Chicago, Jim Suhr from Ferguson. Alex Sanz and Ryan J. Foley in Ferguson also contributed to this report.

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