There will be no criminal charges against the police officers who shot and killed a Black motorist in North Carolina last month in a case that involves conflicting accounts of the circumstances surrounding the shooting. In fact, the prosecutor seemed to blame Andrew Brown Jr. for his own death as previously unseen footage of his police killing was finally made public on Tuesday.
After an investigation, Pasquotank County District Attorney R. Andrew Womble said during a press conference that he determined the shooting in Elizabeth City was “justified.”
Womble said: “While tragic, the shooting of Mr. Brown was justified due to his actions.”
Womble’s apparent rationale for his decision was his claim that Brown used his car as a deadly weapon and the officers had the legal right to defend themselves.
The DA reportedly did not communicate the investigation’s findings with Brown’s family or their attorneys before the press conference on Tuesday.
Of the seven deputies who were put on leave following the shooting, four have returned to duty because Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten II said late last month that it was “obvious” they didn’t fire their guns.
Family lawyers contend Brown was driving away from Pasquotank County Sheriff’s deputies trying to serve him a warrant and did not pose a mortal threat when they opened fire on April 21. They also said shooting at a moving vehicle violates state law. They claim Brown was only holding his car’s steering wheel when he was shot in the back of the head.
It was nearly a week after the shooting when the district attorney claimed police only fired their guns after Brown, 42, struck them with his car — a narrative that was missing from initial law enforcement accounts.
Since the shooting, there has been a nonstop battle over making public all of the video footage, which suggests a possible police coverup, lawyers have said. Late last month, family members were finally granted the right to view all of the videos recorded during the shooting after only having been previously shown a 20-second “snippet” that was edited by prosecutors.
Womble’s decision on Tuesday came days after the local NAACP chapter renewed calls for the officers involved to be fired.
“First we are demanding that the video, an unredacted version of the video be released to the family and community,” Pasquotank County NAACP President Keith Rivers said during a rally on Sunday. “Second, we are asking that the three officers involved in the shooting be fired because they clearly violated the Paspotank Sheriff Office policy on the use of deadly force. We’re asking for the resignation of the Sheriff.”
Results from an independent autopsy made public a week after the shooting showed that Brown — who was driving away from police when he was shot — was killed from a penetrating gunshot wound to the head.
Family attorney Wayne Kendall said Brown was shot a total of five times.
“The first, initial shots were through the front windshield of the vehicle,” Kendall said during a press conference on April 28, describing Brown as having “his arms up on the steering wheel.”
Brown was shot four times in his right arm, but “they were not fatal shots,” Kendall said, explaining Brown was still able to back up and turn around his car before continuing to try and flee.
“At that time he was hit in the back of the head,” Kendall said. “That is the fatal bullet wound. A penetrating bullet wound to the skull.”
Kendall called it “a straight up execution” while noting that shooting into a moving vehicle that doesn’t pose a mortal threat is a violation of police policy.
The shot to Brown’s head caused him to lose control and crash into a tree, Kendall said, adding that he suspects police may have fired more shots after the crash.
Meanwhile, Fox News added insult to literal injury when the conservative right-wing media outlet tried to assassinate Brown’s character in death by reporting his criminal past. Fox News reported that the warrant police tried to serve to Brown claimed an informant allegedly bought illegal drugs from him for more than a year.
To be sure, there were no reports of drugs — or guns — being found in Brown’s car.
It was in that context that Brown’s funeral was being held May 3 amid ongoing protests demanding justice.
This is a developing story that will be updated.