DC mother’s hunger strike hopes to gain clarity on son’s death in 2018

A D.C. mother’s lengthy hunger strike has been used to push Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for answers about her son’s death two years ago.

Danielle Brown’s son Marquis Jaylen “JB” Brown reportedly jumped out of his 16th-floor dorm window at Duquesne, which resulted in his death.

NBC Washington’s Corey Smith reported that the “red tape” surrounding the investigation has left Brown without answers about her son’s death and was the motivation for her now 50-day hunger strike.

“I started craving justice more than I did food,” Brown told NBC Washington. “The movement found me because I pushed back the plate.”

While she suffers from worsening muscle aches, migraines and blurry vision, Smith said Brown instead “feeds off the energy of other mothers who also lost their children during encounters with police.”

A law firm conducted an investigation at Duquesne’s behest and shared details of it with the family, NBC4 said. Those details were made public in July.

The investigators said students noticed “a switch had flipped” after Brown had smoked marijuana and returned to his dorm room on Oct. 4, 2018.

Brown’s roommate said Brown entered the room as if someone had been chasing him and reported that Brown began knocking over furniture in his room and slamming against the walls, per the investigation.

Investigators said that after campus security officers were called over reports of a fight, Brown and his roommate denied one had taken place.

Brown told campus security at the time that he was celebrating that his mother had beaten cancer, which was untrue, per the investigation. He then skipped around the hallway before returning to the room.

According to the investigators, while Brown was speaking with campus security, he suddenly grabbed a chair, broke the window and dove out before anyone could stop him.

Smith reported that Danielle Brown’s movement has had an effect.

University police will be given body cameras and are expanding crisis and mental health training for officers.

Duquesne wants Brown to end her hunger strike, per Smith, but the mother told NBC Washington she’s not ready yet.

“Any mother should have rights to know what happened to [their] child without jumping through hoops,” Brown said. “This pain is for everybody else’s child and for the mothers. It’s not even for myself.”

Brown has hired a private investigator to do an independent inquiry.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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