Andrew Brown Jr., the North Carolina man who was fatally shot on Wednesday by a sheriff's deputy executing a search warrant at his home, was unarmed and fleeing the scene when he was shot, a lawyer for his family said.
“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,” Harry Daniels, the Brown family attorney, said during a Thursday press conference that eyewitness accounts of the “unlawful, unjustified killing” confirmed Brown was fleeing the scene in a car and was unarmed.
Now, the Brown family is “demanding immediate release” of the body-camera footage of the incident that has prompted hundreds of North Carolina residents to take to the streets in outrage for the last two nights. On Thursday, protesters gathered at the intersection where Brown was killed before marching downtown.
The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office said on Thursday that Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, was shot around 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday while deputies were serving a search warrant and arrest warrant in the 400 block of Perry Street in Elizabeth City on felony drug charges. During a brief video statement on Thursday, Pasquotank Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said the arrest warrant operation was classified as “high-risk” because Brown was a convicted felon with a history of resisting arrest. Court records show that Brown had a history of criminal charges since the 1990s, including a misdemeanor drug possession conviction and at least two pending felony drug charges.
For that reason, Fogg said deputies were accompanied by their local version of a SWAT team, and other agencies were assisting them. Brown's neighbor, Demetria Williams, told the Associated Press that after hearing gunshots outside she ran out to see a deputy firing multiple times. She said that the car that Brown was driving then skidded into a tree.
“When they opened the door he was already dead,” Williams said. “He was slumped over.”
Williams said deputies attempted chest compressions on Brown. Authorities later removed a car from the scene with a broken rear windshield and multiple bullet holes, the AP reported.
The officers involved have all been put on administrative leave “until we know all the facts,” Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said in the prepared statement.
“I will not prejudge anything or draw any conclusions until we have all the facts,” Wooten added. “I will say if the evidence shows that any of my deputies violated the law or policies they will be held accountable because that is what the citizens expect me to do and it’s the right thing to do.”
Brown’s death marks the latest in a string of police shootings involving Black residents across the United States. On Tuesday night, a Columbus, Ohio police officer shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant after she appeared to have lunged at someone with a knife during a fight. The shocking incident, which was captured on police body cameras, came just minutes before former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd.
Earlier this month, a white police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, apparently firing her service weapon by accident instead of a Taser during the traffic stop.
The demand for the body-camera footage into Brown's death might not be so easy, however. On Thursday, Wooten said that while the department is cooperating with the investigation conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the body-camera video into the shooting will not be released unless there is a court order.
Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble also confirmed that a judge must release the footage under North Carolina law, adding in a statement that while “we know people want to see the body camera footage...police body-worn camera footage is not a public record.”
“We must follow the law and the law prohibits us from publicly releasing the body-worn camera footage. The law does allow a private viewing by the family of Mr. Brown we are working with their attorney to arrange that,” Womble added.