Prosecutor Says Andrew Brown Shooting Was ‘Justified’
Pasquotank County, N.C. District Attorney Andrew Womble said the sheriff’s deputies who fired at Andrew Brown Jr., killing him at his Elizabeth City home, were justified in shooting, deeming that the 42-year-old man’s actions endangered officers at the scene.
Womble said body camera footage shows Brown, who was unarmed, ignored the deputies commands and proceeded to drive toward them, making the car a threat in their perception.
At a Tuesday morning press conference, Womble said that none of the officers will be charged in Brown’s death.
“Mr. Brown’s death, while tragic, was justified because Mr. Brown’s actions caused three deputies with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others,” said Womble referring to his determination of the probe conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. He later noted that the deputies’ actions were “fully supported under the law.”
Brown was shot and killed by deputies while they executed a search warrant on drug charges on April 21. Witnesses say Brown was driving away at the time and deputies fired several rounds, killing him.
A video released by Womble at the press conference apparently shows Brown attempting to leave the house where his car was parked and turn away from the officers while they yell for him to stop. Womble said the first shots were fired as Brown drives toward them, they continue as he tries to drive away. He crashed into a tree in a nearby yard after losing control of the vehicle. None of the deputies were injured.
Lawyers for Brown’s family expressed disappointement and frustration over the decision not to pursue charges against the officers.
“To say this shooting was justified, despite the known facts, is both an insult and a slap in the face to Andrew’s family, the Elizabeth City community, and to rational people everywhere,” said attorneys Ben Crump, Bakari Sellers, Harry Daniels, and Chantel Cherry-Lassiter in a joint statement. “Not only was the car moving away from officers, but four of them did not fire their weapons – clearly they did not feel that their lives were endangered. And the bottom line is that Andrew was killed by a shot to the back of the head. Interestingly, none of these issues were appropriately addressed in today’s press conference.”
Womble said that although the video was shown at the press conference, it would not be released to the public and said that the courts would have to determine if that could happen. Pasquotank County Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster decided last month that body camera video would not be publicly released, however it could still be released after a state investigation was complete.
Seven deputies were reportedly placed on administrative leave. The three involved in the shooting remain on leave while four others who were at the scene were reinstated when Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten determined that they did not fire their weapons, according to Norfolk, Va., newspaper the Virginian-Pilot.
An independent autopsy determined that Brown was struck by bullets five times out of the 14 shots that were fired including once in the back of the head. His family, which had been shown a part of the video weeks ago, has maintained that he was not a threat and that he did not drive his car toward them.
Womble, however, has said in court that Brown drove his car toward the deputies and struck them twice before shots were fired. But that does not seem apparent in the video shown at Tuesday’s press conference.
Brown’s shooting took place in the shadow of the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. A day prior, he had been convicted on all counts in the death of George Floyd a year ago. Demonstrations through the community calling for justice for Brown continued for days after the shooting and his family has called what took place an “execution.”
Womble said at the news conference that he has not spoken with the family about his determination. “Our original discussions immediately after this occurred with Mr. Brown’s attorneys did not go well,” he said.
A second meeting with the family was attempted, but their attorneys were not present.
“Obviously, any party that is represented by counsel I have to be very careful in dealing with attorneys before I deal with parties,” said Womble. “I was unable to do so, and at this point the relationship is just constrained to the point that I did not speak with them. I’d be happy to talk with them at length after this is over.