North Carolina sheriff’s deputies were justified in fatally shooting a Black man during an attempted arrest last month, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Andrew Brown Jr., 42, was shot while behind the wheel of his car on April 21 in Elizabeth City as Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies were serving a warrant for his arrest on felony drug charges.
District Attorney Andrew Womble said Brown’s shooting death, “while tragic,” was “justified due to his actions.”
An autopsy commissioned by Brown’s family found he was shot five times, once in the back of the head. That report added to the findings of a state death certificate that showed that he was shot five times and that Brown’s immediate cause of death was a “penetrating gunshot wound of the head.”
The district attorney has said officers fired only after Brown struck deputies twice with his vehicle. But his family’s attorneys say the video is at odds with how law officials have framed the shooting.
Brown’s relatives have questioned why deputies used deadly force when he was surrounded by law enforcement.
Chance Lynch, an attorney for the family, said last week that the video shows that deputies fired at Brown, prompting him to move his vehicle away from them. After the shooting, Brown’s vehicle was riddled with bullet holes, Lynch said.
The shooting occurred in a residential neighborhood in Elizabeth City, which is about 35 miles south of Norfolk, Virginia.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten has identified three of his deputies who opened fire at Brown that day: Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan and Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn.
Further frustrating Brown’s family is that body-worn camera footage of the incident has not been released to the public.
Such law enforcement video in North Carolina isn’t classified as a public record, as it is in many states, which typically offer a defined, simple path for such footage to be publicly released.
But that’s not the case in North Carolina, which requires a judge’s order to allow such footage to see sunshine.
This is a developing story, please refresh here for updates.
Antonio Planas contributed.