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Family Says Miami-Area Cops Wrongfully Killed Mentally Ill Man Holding BroomstickEXPAND
Instagram / City of Opa-Locka

Family Says Miami-Area Cops Wrongfully Killed Mentally Ill Man Holding Broomstick

Cornelius Brown lived with schizophrenia and liked to carry a broomstick around his Opa-locka neighborhood "playing nunchucks." His family says that simply being black and carrying a stick in public eventually got him killed at the age of 25. In 2015, Opa-locka Police officers said they were forced to shoot Brown dead after he attacked them.

But since day one, Brown's family has never believed the department's excuse for why two cops fired seven bullets at a man who was clearly mentally ill. Valencia Brown, Cornelius' mother, officially filed a wrongful-death and civil rights lawsuit against the city, police chief, and officers who shot her son, alleging the department could have easily found ways to de-escalate the situation but instead chose to agitate a man who was already clearly in the throes of mental illness. (The case was transferred to federal court last Thursday.)

"Cornelius Brown was acting in a manner that indicated that he was suffering from a mental health breakdown or emergency," the lawsuit reads. "This behavior included failing to respond to questions and instructions, inappropriate and incoherent actions (such as singing and muttering), and an appearance of general confusion. Defendant Officers knew or should have known that Cornelius Brown suffered from a mental condition."

According to news reports at the time, Opa-locka Police said they stopped Brown around 3:30 a.m. November 18, 2015, after they saw him "acting erratically" at a convenience store. His family says he was unarmed except the stick. According to CBS Miami, Brown began to walk away from the officers after they ordered him to stop.

According to the new lawsuit, the family claims he didn't listen because Brown was clearly in a state of mental crisis and wasn't able to hear or respond to reality. The suit claims Brown was "not acting in an aggressive or violent manner" and merely tried to walk away as the police approached. The family claims that it was the officers' actions that set off Brown and that there was no legal reason to stop him in the first place because it is legal to carry a broomstick in public.

"When Defendant Officers yelled commands at Cornelius Brown, he manifested signs and symptoms that he was having a mental breakdown," the suit says. "Cornelius Brown was unable to communicate effectively, clearly did not understand what was going on, and was visibly scared. Despite Cornelius Brown's apparent mental state, Defendant Officers continued to act aggressively and threateningly toward Cornelius Brown."

Officers said they followed him for a few blocks in a cruiser. Eventually, they claim, he jumped on the windshield of the cruiser and began "punching" it. Police provided CBS photos of the cruiser's cracked windshield. The cops say they used a Taser on him but the shocks did nothing. Instead, he began swinging his stick at them — and then the cops shot.

“We are trying to find out why are there so many bullets down there for a broomstick? That’s messed up,” Audrey Brown, Cornelius' aunt, told CBS after the shooting. “That’s my nephew. That’s my sister’s baby boy. She's hurting right now. All she wants to know is what happened to her son.”

The family questioned how a fairly lanky 25-year-old with schizophrenia could pose such a danger to multiple trained officers that would necessitate shooting him dead. Then president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, John Rivera, who continually displays zero conscience, told reporters: "To say it is only a broomstick — you can harm someone or kill someone with a broomstick. We know that the officers had to take action that they don’t like to act when they are in fear for their lives."

Brown's family begs to differ — and claims the department failed to administer basic medical care after they fired a hail of bullets into their son.

"As a result of Defendant Officers' failure to timely request or obtain medical attention after using excessive, unreasonable, and unjustified force," the suit reads, "Cornelius Brown's death was hastened and/or caused."

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