ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WITN/AP/WBTV) - The FBI has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the officer-involved shooting death of Andrew Brown, Jr.
Agents with the FBI Charlotte Field Office will work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice to determine whether federal laws were violated.
Governor Roy Cooper is urging that a special prosecutor handle all matters regarding the shooting. The governor provided a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“In the interest of justice and confidence in the judicial system, I believe a special prosecutor should handle all matters regarding the shooting in Pasquotank County. This would help assure the community and Mr. Brown’s family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias. This position is consistent with the change in the law recommended by our Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice which calls for a special prosecutor in police shootings, and I believe the law should be changed to help ensure it,” Gov. Cooper said.
Attorneys for Andrew Brown Jr’s family say an independent autopsy showed the cause of death was a gunshot to the back of Brown’s head.
Brown was shot and killed on the morning of Wednesday, April 21 as deputies were trying to serve a search warrant at a home on Perry Street in Elizabeth City. On Tuesday, April 27, the family and attorney’s held a press conference to reveal the results of the independent autopsy.
Attorneys for Brown’s family say he was shot while he had his hands on the car steering wheel. They said the independent autopsy revealed four bullet wounds to his right arm, described as “more or less glancing shots, not fatal shots.”
“He was able to back up as these shots were coming into the vehicle” attorneys said about those four shots. Brown was then able to turn his vehicle around and begin to go across a vacant lot, they added.
That’s when, the attorneys said, Brown was struck by a bullet in the back of the head as he was fleeing. According to the autopsy, they say, the time of death was “within minutes” of Brown being shot in the head.
“Andrew did not get his due process,” they said. “You don’t have to be white or Black to realize this family has not received justice... We demand justice for Andrew Brown and his family, Andrew Brown and his children.”
On Monday, body camera video was shown to Brown’s relatives. Attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter watched a 20-second portion of the video with the family and said Brown did not appear to be a threat to officers as he backed his vehicle out and tried to drive away. “They ran up to his car shooting,” said Lassiter.
Brown’s death led to nightly protests in the town of Elizabeth City, where a State of Emergency was declared Monday, before Brown’s family watched the video clip. The video has not been made public.
Officials set a hearing on the public release of bodycam video from the deadly officer-involved shooting. The hearing will be held Wednesday, April 28 at 10 a.m.
Andrew’s son, Khalil Ferebee, said his father was executed by Pasquotank County deputies after watching a short clip of police body camera footage Monday afternoon at the county sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten said seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave while three have since resigned. Elizabeth City police were not involved in the shooting.
The SBI is investigating the shooting and their results will be turned over to the district attorney.
Late Monday, Sheriff Wooten & Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said the county attorney filed a motion asking a Superior Court judge to release the body camera video.
“This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher,” said the sheriff.”
“Let’s be clear, this was an execution,” Lassiter said. “I just want to make it clear, they were still shooting at him after his car had already crashed into a tree.”
The family was supposed to see the video at 11:30 a.m., but that was delayed as the county said it had to blur some of the video involved.
Attorneys said the family was only allowed to see twenty seconds from one body camera.
County attorney Michael Cox earlier today said while state law permits a private viewing to the family, it does allow them to blur some faces on the video to protect an active internal investigation. In a statement, Cox said the county received the family’s request Sunday evening, “we began working immediately to make that happen as soon as possible,” Cox said.
Monday morning, Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker issued a State of Emergency because of concerns there might be civil unrest once the video was shown to the family.
A two-block area around the courthouse and sheriff’s office has been cordoned off to vehicles.
North Carolina deputies who fatally shot Brown of his house obtained the search warrant that brought them there after investigators recorded him selling small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine to an informant, according to court documents released Monday.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who’s among lawyers representing Brown’s family, told reporters Monday morning that the delay is meant to protect law enforcement officers at the same time as they release the warrants with negative details about Brown.
“Now, you all may have noticed that they released a warrant saying all kinds of things about Andrew Brown, but they want to redact the face of the ... officers that killed Andrew Brown,” he said, adding that law officials blurring deputies’ faces are “going to protect them and not show their face and not say their names ... because what they want to do is assassinate the character” of Brown.
The warrant released Monday was obtained by the Pasquotank County sheriff’s office and signed by a local judge to allow the search of Brown’s Elizabeth City home. It said that an investigator in nearby Dare County was told by the informant that the person had been purchasing crack cocaine and other drugs for over a year from Brown. The informant described purchasing drugs at the house that was the target of the search.
The warrant said that in March, local narcotics officers used the informant to conduct controlled purchases of methamphetamine and cocaine from Brown on two separate occasions. The warrant says both drug transactions were recorded using audio and video equipment.
The search warrant said investigators believed Brown was storing drugs in the home or two vehicles. The document, which indicated the search wasn’t completed, didn’t list anything found.
The arrest warrants, which were released last week, charged him with possession with intent to sell and deliver 3 grams of each of the drugs.
Calls have been growing to release deputy body camera footage of the incident, which is not public record in North Carolina. A judge must generally sign off on any release of body camera video. Wooten has said he would ask a local judge as early as Monday to allow the release of the footage. A coalition of media has also petitioned the court for its release, and city officials also plan to.