Mom of teenager who had been listed as a John Doe talks about why he wasn't immediately reported as missing

Posted at 6:38 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 18:38:57-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Jaquan Brown, 16, was a kind person who liked to have fun with his family, but he also liked to stay in the street with people he trusted too much, according to his mother who asked that she not be identified for privacy reasons.

Unfortunately, running away was something that was also very familiar to Jaquan. His mother estimates he's run away from home about 20 times in the last few years.

So when Jaquan didn't come home in early September, his family wasn't immediately alarmed.

It wasn't until Jaquan stopped posting on social media that loved ones started to worry.

"He is a social media junkie, so he would post on social media constantly," said his mother, adding she had just bought him a new phone that he was really excited about.

But then his social media posts stopped. A day went by and then another day with no posts from Jaquan.

The teen's activity on social media abruptly ended the night he was shot at a gas station near Seven Mile Road and Hayes on Detroit's east side.

But police had no idea who their victim was and Jaquan's family had no idea he'd been murdered.

There was no match to fingerprints in their system and police didn't have any missing persons matching the description of their new John Doe.

Homicide detectives continued to work the case and arrested the suspected shooter this week, nearly a month after the killing.

"They were able to solve it without knowing who the victim was, which is just incredible," said Detroit Police Commander Michael McGinnis.

Detectives often begin their homicide investigations with what they call "victimology."

"We need to know who the victim is. Who they hang out with. Who their friends are and who they know," said McGinnis. "And when we don't know who the victim is, that poses a difficult challenge for us."

On Tuesday, Detroit Police posted a picture of their victim in the September 1 gas station shooting on Facebook in hopes of getting the public's help in identifying him.

Detectives had already arrested the shooter but still needed to put a name to their John Doe. They needed to find the family of the young man who'd been killed.

"Initially, the investigators believed that he was around the age of 18 to 22, based off of his physical appearance. So we were looking for someone missing of that age," said McGinnis.

It wasn't long after police posted the picture of their victim that the family of Jaquan Brown came forward. And they confirmed it was him after a trip to the Wayne County Morgue.

"It was my greatest fear," said Jaquan's mother. "Because I know, just from watching other news stories, that the streets are very dangerous."

It turns out when police began their homicide investigation, they didn't know there was anyone with Jaquan's description missing because it wasn't until September 14 that his mother says they reported he was missing.

Running away and staying in the street is what Jaquan did so often that his mother estimates in the last few years he's run away about 20 times.

But this time, days had gone by without contacting his family or posting on social media.

"We knew definitely something was wrong," said his mother, who is thankful that police have made an arrest in her son's murder.

"There was a 14-day window where it was unreported," said Commander McGinnis. "Our message would be that it's critically important that if a loved one's been missing, that it's reported in a timely manner. That aids us in our investigation whether it's criminal or non-criminal."

One of the tools that really helped investigators crack the case without even having an identification of their victim was surveillance video from the city's Green Light program.

McGinnis said prosecutors have signed a warrant on their murder suspect and he's expected to be arraigned Thursday.

The motive, McGinnis said, is a dispute over a gun.

Jaquan's mother said for so long she wished he could have been held in juvenile detention, but because he was never arrested, she says she was told there was nothing that could be done to hold him.

"Running away is not a crime," she said. "That's another reason why he was not able to be identified when he made it to Wayne County morgue is because he's never been in trouble. He's never had any type of criminal history."