ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. – North Carolina sheriff’s deputies shot a Black man five times, including one fatal shot to the back of his head, according to an independent autopsy commissioned by the man’s family.
Andrew Brown Jr. was shot four times in his right arm and once in the back of his head as deputies in Pasquotank County were serving a warrant last week, Wayne Kendall, an attorney for Brown’s family, said at a news conference Tuesday.
Brown’s family on Monday reviewed a partial clip of the body camera footage and described his death as an execution.
“Yesterday, I said he was executed. This autopsy report showed me I was correct,” Khalil Ferebee, one of Brown’s seven children, said outside the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office.
Kendall said the four gunshot wounds to Brown’s arm were “not fatal shots.” The autopsy report is consistent with what the family saw on the partial video, he added.
Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, another attorney representing the Brown family, said Monday that the 20-second clip viewed by Brown’s family and lawyers showed Brown with his hands on the steering wheel and not a threat to deputies, who fired as he backed his vehicle out and tried to drive away.
Brown then crashed into a tree and died within minutes of the gunshot wound to the back of his head, Kendall said.
Brown’s death sparked protests and calls for accountability as activists have demanded release of the full body camera footage. The shooting occurred one day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.
Sheriff’s deputies were serving drug-related search and arrest warrants in Elizabeth City last Wednesday when multiple deputies fired shots, Sheriff Tommy Wooten has previously said.
Seven deputies are on leave pending a probe by the State Bureau of Investigation.
The sheriff’s office and the county prosecutor have released few public details and have not released the full body camera footage. Pasquotank County Sheriff Office Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said in a Monday video statement that county attorney R. Michael Cox filed a motion to release the video and the sheriff’s office would comply with a judge’s order.
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Family attorneys said the video shown to the family was heavily edited and began after the shooting already began.
“They’re shooting and saying, ‘Let me see your hands’ at the same time,” Lassiter said, adding, “Let’s be clear. This was an execution.”
Family lawyer Harry Daniels said Brown was driving away “because he was scared for his life.”
“He left, tried to save his life and they continued to shoot and put a bullet in the back of his head,” Daniels said.
Wooten said Monday the shooting was “quick” and occurred over the course of 30 seconds.
“Body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher. They only tell part of the story,” he said after the family viewed the partial footage.
State law allows for family members and attorneys to view bodycam footage in similar cases, but public release of video requires a judge’s approval. Brown’s family, however, said authorities delayed showing them the footage and limited the amount they could see.
“They’re trying to hide something,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is also representing the family.
Family seeks answers:Why did police fatally shoot Andrew Brown Jr.?
A warrant for Brown released Monday said investigators used information from an informant, including recordings of drug buys. Court documents said an informant told an investigator the person had been buying drugs from Brown for over a year. Narcotics officers also conducted controlled purchases from Brown twice, according to the warrant.
Crump said the information in the warrants was released to cast Brown in a negative light.
Elizabeth City, a city of 18,000 residents, about half of them Black, is in eastern North Carolina.
Protests sparked by the shooting have generally been peaceful, but Monday, Mayor Bettie J. Parker declared a state of emergency ahead a possible release of the video. The emergency status will continue “until deemed no longer necessary to protect our citizens,” the declaration stated.
Students at Elizabeth City State University, a historically black university, were told to gather their belongings and leave their dorms by noon Tuesday in the wake of the emergency declaration.
Classes were already scheduled to end after this week, but the university ended on-campus instruction for the remainder of the school year. Students learned Sunday they had to vacate campus and were told final exams scheduled for next week must be taken online.
“It’s a bit of a shock to be honest,” said ECSU freshman Noah Jacobson.
Contributing: John Bacon, Jorge L. Ortiz and Will Carless, USA TODAY; The Associated Press