The deputies who shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr. on April 21 were justified in their actions and would not face criminal charges, District Attorney Andrew Womble said Tuesday. Womble said after concluding his investigation, he found that the killing was justified because Brown endangered the lives of the deputies by “recklessly” driving toward them.
A group of Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Brown outside his house on April 21 in Elizabeth City as they attempted to arrest him on suspicion of selling illegal drugs. According to witnesses, police shot Brown as he was driving away from officers.
“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,” Womble said before showing the body camera video to the public for the first time,” Womble told reporters at a news briefing where he also showed videos taken from the body-worn cameras of the deputies as they tried to arrest 42-year-old Brown.
Lawyers representing Brown’s family said Womble tried to “whitewash” the killing. “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,” Ben Crump, Bakari Sellers, Harry Daniels and Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said in the 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.”
The lawyers are demanding that a North Carolina court allow the release of all videos. Brown’s death, which came a day after former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, made headlines amid concerns about how the criminal legal system harms and kills Black and Brown people.
Videos of the shooting
Playing excerpts of video from the deputies’ body-worn cameras on Tuesday, Womble said the deputies showed up that morning to find Brown in his car, talking on the phone. He said the deputies surrounded the car before ordering Brown to show his hands. They then tried to open the car door but Brown reversed his car into a corner, pulling a deputy over the car hood, Womble said.
Brown then drove forward toward the officers and turned left in his attempt to flee. The deputy was forced to jump out of the way. Three other deputies started firing at Brown’s car. Womble said that one shot went through the windshield, and another five entered the car’s trunk and rear window. At the end of the day, Brown was shot multiple times in the arm but died after being hit in the head.
“As he was being shot at, Andrew was trying to back away from the officers and save his life, save his own life,” Cherry-Lassiter had earlier told CNN, describing Brown’s death as an “execution”.
The three deputies who fired at Brown were put on administrative leave but on Tuesday, Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten said they will be reinstated and retrained.