What We Know About The Police Shooting Of Andrew Brown Jr., And When We Might Learn More
- Written by Hannah Schuster
- Category: Local News
- Published: 28 April 2021
This post was updated April 28 at 2:07 p.m.
Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr., a 42-year-old father of seven, on the morning of April 21.
It has sparked daily protests in Elizabeth City, as Brown’s family and the community demand answers about his killing.
Authorities say they were attempting to serve a drug warrant when they approached Brown, but information about the case has been released slowly.
A judge on Wednesday denied a request to make body camera footage public, but said Brown’s family and one attorney can view footage from multiple officers.
Here’s what we know so far about this case, and when we might learn more:
What do we know about the shooting?
Pasquotank County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at Brown’s house around 8:30 a.m. on April 21. According to a warrant, they were searching for drugs, specifically crack cocaine, based on information from confidential informants.
The public has not seen any body camera footage in this case. Attorneys for Brown’s family and the District Attorney for Pasquotank County have offered differing accounts of what the video shows.
On Monday, Brown’s family and an attorney viewed a 20-second portion of footage from one officer’s camera. They described the killing as an “execution,” and said Brown was not threatening anyone when he was shot.
The lawyer, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, says Brown’s hands were on his steering wheel as officers fired at him. She says he backed up the car, and was clearly trying to get away, as officers continued to shoot.
This contradicts statements from Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble. In court on Wednesday, he said the video shows that Brown's car "makes contact" with officers before they fired at him.
Brown died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head, according to an independent autopsy the family commissioned. He was struck five times, including four shots to his right arm.
A death certificate lists the cause of death as a “penetrating gunshot wound of the head,” though the North Carolina medical examiner’s office has not released its autopsy report.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten, in a video statement posted to Facebook, said the incident unfolded very quickly
“This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds, and body cameras are sharky and sometimes hard to decipher. They only tell part of the story,” he said.
The family’s representatives were frustrated they could not view all the raw body-cam video that exists.
Wooten and his chief deputy have posted several recorded videos on Facebook, but local authorities have not been taking questions from reporters.
Will body camera footage be released?
A superior court judge ruled Wednesday that body camera footage will not be made public, but it can be disclosed to Brown’s family.
Judge Jeff Foster said a public release could impact the fairness of any potential trial and the officers’ safety.
North Carolina law requires a court order to disclose police body camera or dash camera footage. A coalition of media outlets had petitioned for the release of the video, and the Pasquotank County attorney also argued in favor of its disclosure.
But the judge ultimately sided with Womble, the district attorney, who opposed it.
Foster said he would revisit his decision in 35 to 40 days, after an investigation of the case concludes.
Wayne Kendall, a lawyer for Brown’s family, described the ruling as a “partial victory.” The family and one attorney will be allowed to see video from multiple cameras within 10 days, though officers’ faces will be blurred.
The lack of clear information from authorities about Brown’s killing has sparked anger and mistrust in the local community. Some lawmakers also want to change the state’s law governing release of body camera footage.
Who is investigating this case?
The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the case. On Tuesday, the FBI confirmed to WHRO it has opened a federal civil rights probe into Brown’s killing. The agency’s Charlotte field office will work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Officer for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.
Gov. Roy Cooper has also called for a special prosecutor to handle “all matters” regarding Brown’s killing.
“This would help assure the community and Mr. Brown’s family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias,” Cooper said.
Seven sheriff’s deputies are on administrative leave.