ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. – North Carolina sheriff’s deputies shot a Black man five times, including a 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 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.
The FBI said Tuesday it’s launching a federal civil rights investigation into the case, as calls increase to publicly release body camera video of the incident.
Brown’s family on Monday reviewed a partial clip of the 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. “It’s obvious he was trying to get away. It’s obvious. And they’re going to shoot him in the back of the head?”
Kendall said the four gunshot wounds to Brown’s arm were “not fatal.” The autopsy report is consistent with what the family saw on the partial video, he added.
Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, another lawyer representing the Brown family, said Monday that the 20-second clip she and the family saw 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 on Brown last Wednesday when multiple deputies fired shots, Sheriff Tommy Wooten has 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. 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.
A judge will consider Cox’s petition as well as media organizations’ petition to have the footage released at a hearing Wednesday. However, it’s unclear how soon the judge could rule, as other similar cases have taken weeks to play out.
More on Andrew Brown Jr.:Brown’s family says police ‘executed’ him, then only showed a 20-second video clip from bodycam
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump railed against the lack of access to body camera footage.
“We believe they’re trying to hide the truth,” said Crump, who is representing the Brown family. “If they were making transparency a priority, we would all have seen that video by now.”
Family lawyers said the video shown to the family was heavily edited and began after the shooting had begun.
“They’re shooting and saying, ‘Let me see your hands’ at the same time,” Cherry-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 lawyers to view bodycam footage in similar cases, but public release of video requires a judge’s approval.
“I don’t think anybody is really getting any information,” said Kathryn Gregory, who was at the news conference Tuesday. “They are being as vague as they can.”
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.
Protests sparked by the shooting have generally been peaceful, but Monday, Mayor Bettie 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.
Elizabeth City, with 18,000 residents — about half of them Black — is located in eastern North Carolina.
Students at Elizabeth City State University, a historically Black school, 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 conclude 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,” freshman Noah Jacobson said.
Contributing: John Bacon, Jorge L. Ortiz and Will Carless, USA TODAY; The Associated Press