Fatal police shooting of unarmed Black man was ‘justified’, prosecutor says

The fatal shooting of a Black man in North Carolina was “justified” and no charges will be filed against the police officers who killed him, according to the local prosecutor.

Andrew Brown Jr, 42, from Elizabeth City, was killed in April by sheriff’s deputies trying to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants.

“Mr Brown’s death, while tragic, was justified,” Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble said in a press conference on Tuesday.

People taking part in a protest march following Andrew Brown Jr's death in Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Image:People taking part in a protest march following Andrew Brown Jr’s death in Elizabeth City, North Carolina in April

“No officers will be criminally charged,” Mr Womble added. “The officers’ actions were consistent with their training and fully supported under law.”

The three deputies who fired shots at Mr Brown have been on leave since the incident, while four other officers involved in serving the warrants were reinstated after the sheriff said it was clear they did not fire shots.

Mr Womble also said none of the officers will face criminal charges.

Lawyers for Mr Brown’s family have called the decision “an insult and a slap in the face”.

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At the press conference, Mr Womble played sections of bodycam footage from the scene which showed Mr Brown driving his car in the direction of officers, forcing one to lurch out of the way.

Police then began firing several shots at the car.

Mr Womble said Mr Brown was shot twice – once in the shoulder, and once in the back of the head.

An autopsy commissioned by Mr Brown’s family found he was shot five times, once in the back of the head.

People taking part in a protest march following Andrew Brown Jr's death in Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Image:People taking part in a protest march following Andrew Brown Jr’s death in Elizabeth City, North Carolina in April

Mr Brown’s actions before shots were fired caused the three deputies “to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others”, according to Mr Womble.

He said Mr Brown used his car as a “deadly weapon”, and that he struck a deputy and nearly ran him over, while ignoring commands to show his hands and get out of the vehicle.

But lawyers for Mr Brown’s family said the bodycam footage shows he was not armed with guns or deadly weapons, and that the car was moving away from officers.

In a statement released after the decision, they said: “Andrew Brown Jr, his grieving family, and this community deserve answers. And they received anything but from D.A. Womble’s attempt to whitewash this unjustified killing.”

Mr Brown’s family are calling for the release of the full bodycam footage, which Mr Womble said he was not authorised to publish publicly.

Mr Womble did play partial footage during a news conference on Tuesday but the family continued its calls for direct release of the video.

A dove representing the soul of Andrew Brown Jr. is released as his sons Khalil and Jha'rod Ferebee, other family members and the Reverend Al Sharpton watch at the conclusion of the funeral in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, U.S., May 3, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Image:Mr Brown’s funeral was held earlier this month

Mr Brown’s killing led to local protests and attracted international attention, occurring a day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd.

This decision in North Carolina will raise further questions about police violence towards Black communities in America at large, and the level of accountability officers face.

The sheriff’s office said that of the three offices that fired shots, one is Black (Deputy Robert Morgan), while two are white (Investigator Daniel Meads and Corporal Aaron Lewellyn).

Separately, the FBI has launched a civil rights probe into the shooting.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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