Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot dead Saturday night in an altercation with a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, had been eager to start college Monday, his mother said.
"He wanted to be really good in visual arts and heating and cooling," Lesley McSpadden told USA TODAY. "He was really good with his hands and taking things apart and putting them back together. He was almost like a healer.
"He fixed things. He didn't create problems. He fixed things. My son was sweet. He didn't mean any harm to anybody."
Brown, who dreamed of owning his own business one day, had graduated from Normandy High School in St. Louis and was set to start classes Monday at Vatterott College, a local trade school
His death sparked a wave of anger that exploded into a night of rioting and looting that led to more than 30 arrests and two officers injured,
McSpadden described her son as a sweet young man, a "gentle giant."
"He was a big teddy bear," she said. "He touched everybody. My son was the type of person that everybody flocked to him. Everybody wanted to know about Michael. Everybody wanted to be around Michael."
McSpadden said she does not want her son's death to be a reason for rioting.
"I would not want them to get out there and use my son's situation for their personal anger," she said. "That's not what I want them to do. We are out there marching for justice for my son and peace for my family."
She said she wants the officer who killed her son to face the criminal justice system.
"He needs to be held accountable for what he did," McSpadden said.
Brown's family has retained attorney Benjamin Crump, best known as the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a white neighborhood watch volunteer, in Florida.
Those who knew Brown say they have a hard time believing that the quiet, funny teen who loved rap music could have been involved in such an altercation.
Gerard Fuller, 18, has known Michael Brown since they met in second grade at Pine Lawn Elementary School in St. Louis. Fuller remembered his friend as a giant who was extremely kind. The two young men attended elementary, middle and high school together.
Fuller said when he heard the news that Brown was killed in a confrontation with police officers, he was devastated. And he said he instantly thought the police were lying.
"In all my time knowing him, I never saw him get into a fight or an altercation with anybody so I know he wouldn't go for a police officer's gun," Fuller told USA TODAY. "I just know he wouldn't do that."
Fuller, who lives in an apartment complex behind Brown's grandmother where the teen was killed Saturday, thinks the officer who shot Brown may have been intimated by him because of the teen's size.
"They (police) ride up and down the street always ---like they mess with people around Ferguson but I would never think it would go this far," Fuller said.
He added that he believes police officers often stop people walking around in the neighborhood without reason.
Fuller said ever since elementary school, Brown had big dreams. While many students wanted to be football or basketball players, "He was the only person who would say I want to own my own business," said Fuller, who heads to Arkansas Baptist College Friday.
As the two matured, Brown became a quiet figure who would walk around with headphones listening to rap artists like Tupac and Young Jeezy. Recently, Brown even did some rapping of his own, posting songs on Fuller's Facebook page, Fuller said.
He and Brown often talked about their futures and memories from the tight knit community. Fuller last saw Brown Wednesday when the two talked about their childhoods and the futures ahead of them.
"He said he wasn't going to end up like some people on the streets," Hershel Johnson, a friend of Brown since middle school, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He was going to get an education. He was going to make his life a whole lot better."
In one of the last posts identified by the newspaper as Brown's Facebook page, the teen posts a prophetic message. "if I leave this earth today," it said, "at least youll know i care about others more then I cared about my damn self."