“I want this place closed:” Family remember life of Brandon Johnson, who died at Mental Health Complex

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MILWAUKEE -- Three years ago, Brandon Johnson died at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex. On Tuesday, October 6th, a rally was held to mark that anniversary. His death shone a spotlight on the complex and spawned a John Doe investigation into his death.

Brandon Johnson

Brandon Johnson

No criminal charges were issued as a result of the John Doe investigation -- and supporters of the Johnson family believe justice was denied.

The Coalition for Justice, Mothers for Justice United and family members and friends of Johnson rallied at the place where he died -- the Mental Health Complex.

Johnson died in October 2012 after being admitted to the facility. Mental health staff did not believe Johnson's complaints about being paralyzed. When he died within three days, it was discovered Johnson had a broken neck. He was never taken in for an examination, and he died as a result of a pulmonary embolism, traced back to a broken neck.

"I'm here to celebrate my son's life. And I'm here with my family because I want everyone to know what they did to my son. I want awareness and I want this place closed," said Alicia Johnson, Brandon's mother. "I'm going to seek justice until I get accountability."

Brandon Johnson

Brandon Johnson

The decision in the John Doe investigation states that while there should have been more effort to check out Johnson's claim of paralysis, the actions of those who heard his claims didn't rise to the point of intent to harm Johnson -- apparently the gold standard for prosecution at the time.

"And that`s quite a bit different from the way we look at it from the federal civil rights violation," Jonathan Safran, attorney for Johnson's family said.

Hector Colon, the Milwaukee County Health and Human Services director says restructuring the mental health system in Milwaukee County began before Johnson's death, and continues now.

Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex

Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex

"Moving toward a community-based system of care. Moving toward a care that`s more person-centered, more recovery-oriented, more trauma-informed and more culturally-intelligent," Colon said.

The group marched from the Mental Health Complex to Froedtert Hospital and back.

Safran says they plan to file a federal lawsuit in Johnson's death.

Gathering to remember Brandon Johnson

Gathering to remember Brandon Johnson


  • g

    I’m sorry for what happened to your son. Why would you want someones job to end who has a family? It’s people there who never met your son. So just don’t be all about yourself.

  • A yooper

    Thousands have come out of there “fixed”. I sent a son to Rogers for a “tune up ” worked very well. Don’t try to close a place that helps.

  • When Will we get along. ?.

    Sorry for your loss. More should of been done to look into the complaint he was making instead of ignored. I don’t think a county facility would or can be shut down over one death, there is many who go in and out of the mental health facilities and come out stronger and rehabilitated, there are many families that turn to county when they have no other option to keep their loved ones safe from harming themselves. When a person overdoses protocol is they go to county to be evaluated before they can go home, sometimes afew hours or if necessary for o couple days. My point is there is so many people that benefit from country and trying to close the door will be impossible, or close to impossible anyway so many other resources depend on county. I would suggest asking for a full investigation and going after the person/people directly involved to have their license to medically treat people taken away and look for a lawsuit for grievance and suffering, you would probably get allot further the trying to close a government operated facility down. Good luck.

  • Opinion8d

    Another story of someone looking for a payout. Thanks to the lawyer and ignorant people. Close it down?? Really?!?! Please let me know how much you paid for the services provided or what you personally did to help him. Please direct your efforts to improving care and awareness versus trying to punish others you truly need care. Every dollar you take from them is less help that they get.

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