Andrew Brown Jr. was fatally shot in the back of the head while he tried to drive away from Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies who had already shot him four times in the right arm, family attorney Wayne Kendall said Tuesday, citing a private autopsy of Brown’s body.
“He was trying to run because he was scared for his life,” Kendall said in a press conference.
The shot to the head caused Brown, a 42-year-old Black man in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to lose control of his vehicle and crash into a tree, Kendall said. A copy of his death certificate says he died within minutes due to the gunshot wound of the head.
The Pasquotank County sheriff has said deputies fatally shot Brown as they attempted to execute a warrant. Harry Daniels, another attorney for the family, said Brown was unarmed at the time deputies opened fire.
The private autopsy, performed by Dr. Brent Hall, adds key details to last Wednesday’s shooting, which has spurred protests over the authorities’ lack of transparency. The Sheriff’s Office has released little information about the shooting and say they are legally prevented from publicly releasing body camera footage without a court order.
The few things they have released have not answered the questions surrounding the shooting. On Monday, Brown’s family and attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter were privately shown a 20-second clip of the video from one deputy’s body camera, which they said shows an “execution.”
“Yesterday, I said I thought he was executed,” Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee said Tuesday. “It’s obvious he was trying to get away. It’s obvious. And they gonna shoot him in the back of the head? Man, that sh** not right. That’s not right at all, man.”
The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office said the county attorney filed a motion Monday with the court to release the video publicly, and a media coalition that includes CNN has also filed a petition for the release of the video.
However, in a video statement posted to Facebook, Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten tried to downplay the videos’ importance.
“This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds, and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher. They only tell part of the story,” he said.
The fatal shooting came just a day after former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. Still, the law enforcement killings of Brown, as well as others in Ohio and Virginia in the last week, highlight the pervasiveness of police violence in America.
The continued delay in releasing video of Brown’s death also highlights the increasing importance of body cameras for transparency and accountability.
“We got a little bit of evidence, but that wasn’t enough for us,” Ferebee told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “We’re heartbroken.”
What we know about the shooting
In dispatch audio from April 21, first responders can be heard saying a man had gunshot wounds to the back.
Cherry-Lassiter said the footage she saw of the shooting showed an “execution.” Brown was seen in his driveway, blocked in by the sheriff’s department, sitting with his hands on the steering wheel, she said.
“He wasn’t reaching for anything, he wasn’t touching anything, he wasn’t throwing anything around,” she said.
Deputies ran up to his car, shooting as Brown put the vehicle in reverse and backed out of the driveway, she said. Deputies continued to shoot at him as he drove off, Cherry-Lassiter said.
“What the 20 seconds shows is that Andrew Brown is not a threat to officers,” Cherry-Lassiter told CNN on Tuesday. “As he was being shot at, Andrew was trying to back away from the officers and save his life, save his own life.”
CNN has not seen the video and has not been able to independently verify the family attorneys’ account of the video. Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case until all the evidence is collected.
Protesters and attorneys for the family have criticized the lack of public information and the snippet of video provided to the family.
“They are trying to hide something,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said. “They don’t want us to see everything.”
Separate video released publicly Monday by a bystander shows Brown’s car stopped near a tree and surrounded by several officers.
Seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave following the shooting, two others have resigned and one deputy retired, Wooten said. Not all the deputies who were placed on administrative leave discharged their firearms, he added, but they were all part of the warrant operation.
What authorities have released
Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies were authorized to look for crack cocaine, other controlled substances and “evidence of criminal activity” in Brown’s two vehicles and his residence, according to a search warrant signed by a judge on April 20.
The copy of the search warrant obtained by CNN was marked as “not executed.” In the first news conference about Brown’s death, Wooten said Brown was killed as deputies were attempting to execute the search warrant, but he later stated Brown was killed as deputies served an arrest warrant.
CNN has not been able to obtain the arrest warrant.
According to the search warrant, PCSO Investigator D. Ryan Meads received information from the Dare County Narcotics Task Force in March of 2021 “regarding the illegal sales of controlled narcotics by Andrew Brown residing on Perry St. in Elizabeth City.”
The task force had been in touch with an informant who claimed to have been buying drugs from Brown for over a year, including at his home or at motels/hotels, according to the warrant.
However, Brown’s aunt Betty Banks said the family was told that authorities did not find any drugs or weapons in Brown’s car or in his house.
Elizabeth City declared a state of emergency Monday morning amid concerns that the video’s release could lead to civil unrest. According to the city’s emergency proclamation, city officials will also file a formal request with the sheriff’s office for the public release of the video.
“It seems likely that the video and audio footage will be released in the very near future. In order to ensure the safety of our citizens and their property, City officials realize there may be a potential period of unrest within the City following the public release of the footage,” the proclamation says.
Marchers in Elizabeth City demonstrated Monday night outside Pasquotank County Attorney Michael Cox’s home, organizer Kirk Rivers and other protestors told CNN.
Protesters stayed for about 15 minutes, chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as well as “Black Lives Matter” and “Andrew Brown.” The march then headed toward the sheriff’s office.