By Alex Dominguez
BALTIMORE — A teenager who died in a struggle with an off-duty police officer in Maryland was an athlete, church usher and mentor, family members said Thursday as they sought to piece together the circumstances of his death.
Baltimore County police said the unidentified officer was at home Wednesday evening when he heard a loud noise, went outside and found his front door damaged — and three or four people running.
Authorities said the officer chased Christopher Brown for several blocks through the Baltimore suburb of Woodlawn before pulling him from some bushes and struggling with him. They said the officer called for help once the teen lost consciousness.
Despite efforts by the officer and paramedics to revive Brown, the teenager was later declared dead at a hospital, police said.
The medical examiner's office determined Brown died of asphyxiation and has ruled the death a homicide, according to police. The state's attorney's office will decide whether the homicide was justified after police complete their investigation, police added.
Brown's aunt, Charlene Harven, said family members had heard a brick may have been thrown at the officer's home. She said she didn't know whether her nephew was part of any group that was chased or just happened to be in the area at the time.
Brown was at a friend's house shortly before the deadly encounter and apparently was walking home, Harven said. Family members said Brown was recovering from knee surgery and was unable to run quickly.
The aunt said Brown was a star athlete on his football, lacrosse and wrestling teams in addition to his service as a mentor and a church usher. "None of those things would lead us to believe that he was involved in any kind of criminal activity," Harven said.
She added that family members are "at peace with the fact that Chris in heaven. What we are not at peace with is how he got there. That's what we're trying to find out now."
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Copyright 2012 Associated Press