North Carolina officials on Thursday faced growing pressure to release body camera footage of the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man who was fatally shot by law enforcement on Wednesday morning in Elizabeth City.
Brown was unarmed when he was fatally shot, said Harry Daniels, the Brown family’s attorney. Witness accounts paint a picture of an “unlawful, unjustified killing” in which multiple law enforcement officers shot as Brown fled the scene in a vehicle, Daniels said at a Thursday press conference.
“To my understanding, there is body camera footage to this incident, and it has not been released. A lot of speculation is going on — we’re asking for answers, accountability and transparency,” Daniels said. “This is something we are demanding immediate release.”
Daniels said he believes three deputies fired their weapons and all are on administrative leave.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation on Thursday said it continues its investigation into the incident, but only the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office or the District Attorney’s Office can release the bodycam footage. Neither office has responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
“What we are looking for at this time will be accurate answers and not fast answers,” District Attorney Andrew Womble said at a Wednesday news conference. “We’re going to wait for the full and complete investigation … and we’ll review that and make any determinations that we deem appropriate at that time. This will not be a rush to judgment.”
For many, the sense of relief brought by the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday in the murder of George Floyd was short-lived. Reports of more police killings emerged just hours later, including that of Brown and 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant who was fatally shot Tuesday night by police officers in Columbus, Ohio.
Crowds of people gathered again Thursday night to demand more information about the circumstances surrounding Brown’s death in Elizabeth City, about 170 miles northeast of Raleigh.
“The people of Elizabeth City … they desire a right to know what took place this morning,” City Councilman Darius J. Horton said Wednesday. “There is a moment of hurt in Elizabeth City.”
The deputy, who has not been identified, was serving a search warrant at Brown’s rental home Wednesday when Brown was fatally shot around 8:30 a.m. According to a witness, Brown was trying to drive away.
Demetria Williams, Brown’s neighbor, told the Associated Press she ran outside after hearing a gunshot and then saw the deputy firing multiple times at Brown. She also said the car skidded from Brown’s yard and hit a tree.
“When they opened the door he was already dead,” Williams said. “He was slumped over.” She said officers attempted chest compressions on Brown.
Authorities removed a car from the scene that appeared to have multiple bullet holes and a broken rear windshield, the Associated Press reported.
“To my understanding, Mr. Brown was not armed, and the bullets entered into the back of the vehicle, as though he was leaving the scene,” Daniels said. “Based on the witnesses that said that he was not armed and he was fleeing, that is not lawful.”
What are protesters asking for?
Signs reading “Release the video” and “We want the truth,” could be seen in a crowd of protesters who gathered Thursday night, according to a photo tweeted by a News & Observer reporter.
In a press conference Thursday, Pasquotank NAACP President Keith Rivers said by not releasing the footage, the sheriff’s department “failed to create … transparency.”
“Many times it is not the act but it’s what we do after the act that determines who and what we are,” Rivers said. “The release of the body camera footage as soon as possible is a must to build the transparency that is needed in our community.”
Councilman Quentin Jackson, who told WRAL he knew Brown, called for the sheriff to “give the people answers.”
“None other leaders have been out here from the county to stand out here with the people,” Jackson said. “And the sheriff should come out here.”
The city’s public schools said it was implementing remote learning Thursday “due to community concern and out of an abundance of caution,” though it did not explicitly cite protests,
Who was Andrew Brown Jr.?
Andrew Brown Jr. was quick to crack a joke and had an easy smile, despite hardship, loss and troubles with the law, his relatives said.
He encouraged his children to make good grades even though he dropped out of high school himself. Above all, he was determined to give them a better life than he had.
Brown was partially paralyzed on his right side by an accidental shooting, and he lost an eye when he was stabbed, according to aunt Glenda Brown Thomas — “Drew,” as he was called, looked for the humor in things.
“He had a good laugh, a nice smile. And he had good dimples,” Thomas said in an interview Thursday, a day after her 42-year-onephew was killed. “You know, when he’s talking and smiling, his dimples would always show. And he was kind of like a comedian. He always had a nice joke.”
Court records show Brown had a history of criminal charges stretching back into the 1990s, including a misdemeanor drug possession conviction and some pending felony drug charges.
Brown had seven children, according to Daniels, and took care of others who were not his biologically. In an email to USA TODAY, Daniels confirmed he represented five of Brown’s children, who are minors.
Contributing: The Associated Press