Federal marshals assumed the lead in the search for Michael Alexander Brown on Friday as authorities continued to comb the area for the 22-year-old who’s wanted in a Franklin County homicide.
Brown’s mother and grandmother — whom officials believe he was trying to reach when he was spotted in Roanoke on Thursday — made a public plea urging him to turn himself in safely.
“I’m scared for you. I love you, baby,” said Vanessa Hanson, Brown’s mother, in an interview with TV station WFXR News.
“We will get you a lawyer. We will help you. I won’t leave you,” she said. “Just please turn yourself in. I can’t lose another person.”
Brown, who graduated from Franklin County High School and was serving in the U.S. Marines, is charged with second-degree murder and use of a firearm in a felony in the weekend shooting of 54-year-old Rodney Wilfred Brown.
Authorities have described Rodney Brown as the live-in boyfriend of Michael Brown’s mother.
Hanson declined other media interviews Friday. The family said it wished to make only one public statement, but copies of their interview were distributed to other outlets at their request to get their message circulated.
In a new criminal complaint filed this week, federal marshals said Hanson was a witness to the shooting that happened Nov. 9.
Neither she nor her mother, Diane Hanson, spoke of that. They spoke only to their son and grandson.
“We still care about you. Nobody wants you hurt,” Diane Hanson said. “We’ve been speaking with the authorities for a week and they’re willing to do anything to get you in safe. And they’re working with us and we trust them on this. Please, turn yourself in.”
Brown, who’s believed to have traveled as far as South Carolina and back over the past week, was spotted outside his grandmother’s house on Tillett Road, off Grandin, just before 1 a.m. Thursday. A neighbor reported seeing a suspicious person tapping on the house’s windows.
That set off an intensive manhunt across the area. The city schools were closed for the day and neighbors were asked to shelter in place as teams of local, state and federal authorities searched for Brown.
The shelter in place was lifted at 3 p.m. and school resumed Friday, but efforts to locate Brown continued.
On Friday afternoon, law enforcement was back on Tillett Road canvassing neighbors on the street. Later that day, a heavy police presence amassed at a point in northeast Roanoke, near Palmer Avenue, as authorities conducted a search.
Agents on scene included members of the U.S. Marshals Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which serves both the Navy and Marines.
Officers later departed the area.
The U.S. Marshals Service is now heading up the search operation, officials said. Local agencies continue to assist and coordinate.
Earlier this week, federal authorities charged Brown with one count of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
The search for Brown is reaching the one-week mark.
Until recently, Brown was a U.S. Marine corporal stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, but left his post there last month. The base marked him as absent without authorization when he didn’t report for duty Oct. 24.
Brown is a 2015 graduate of Franklin County High School. In 2016, he married just one month after his 19th birthday, according to a marriage register.
The couple are now divorced, according to the woman’s father, who requested that their names not be published.
Brown’s former father-in-law said he hadn’t spoken with Brown in more than a year and didn’t know what led to this week’s events.
But his family is praying for Brown and hoping he will surrender safely, he said. They don’t want to see any harm come to anyone else.
“We hope he chooses life,” he said. “That is our plea and our prayer.”
“Regardless of whatever’s happened, we hope he makes the right choice for all, the best choice, and that is to surrender.”
Friends of Brown’s from Franklin County also made a public overture to him earlier this week and hired defense attorney Deborah Caldwell-Bono, who said she’s ready to assist him.
Roanoke police said Brown can contact any law enforcement agency and make arrangements to be brought in peacefully.
Roanoke Times staff writers Laurence Hammack, Neil Harvey and Dan Casey contributed to this report.