Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot dead Saturday 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
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.
"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."