A deputy sheriff involved in the shooting death of Andrew Brown, Jr., an unarmed Black man sitting in a car outside his North Carolina home, allegedly removed the bullets from his pistol in an attempt to cover up the extent of his actions while “stressing out about how many times he fired his weapon,” according to a bombshell federal court filing.
An amended complaint for damages, filed Oct. 28 by a lawyer representing Brown’s family, claims Investigator Daniel Meads of the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office tampered with evidence after becoming nervous that he may have gone too far in shooting at Brown as the 42-year-old tried to escape the fusillade of gunfire.
“Defendant Meads fired approximately seven (7) 9mm. rounds from his Glock -17 into Brown’s moving vehicle,” the amendment states. “At no time were any members of [law enforcement] in any imminent threat of harm or injury by Brown or his vehicle that warranted Defendant Meads to fire approximately seven (7) times into Brown’s moving vehicle.”
Brown was killed in April by a bullet to the back of his head. He died on the sidewalk, as emergency responders attempted to perform CPR.
Two other officers also fired at Brown during the fatal encounter, which began with cops descending on Brown’s home to serve an arrest warrant on drug charges, based on a tip from a confidential informant. One of the officers, who is identified in the lawsuit as Deputy Sheriff Robert Morgan, fired five rounds into Brown’s moving vehicle from an AR-15 Bushmaster Rifle, according to the amended complaint. The other, Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn, shot at Brown’s car four times with his Glock handgun, it states.
At the time, Pasquotank District Attorney Andrew Womble justified the shooting, saying that Brown’s vehicle was headed “directly toward” one of the deputies. However, after viewing bodycam footage from the scene, lawyers for the Brown family said it was clear that Brown posed no threat to any of the officers, never made contact with any of them, and that he had been “ambushed.”
Of those who were there, only Meads tried to conceal his involvement in the deadly shooting, the amendment alleges, explaining, “There was no indication that Brown was armed.”
During a subsequent search of Brown’s house, Meads asked a Kitty Hawk police detective on the scene to shine his flashlight on Meads, who was standing in a dark room, so Meads “could count the remaining rounds in the magazine of his Glock-17,” according to the filing. The detective later told investigators that Meads had been “stressing out about how many times he fired his weapon at Brown’s vehicle.”
Meads removed the magazine from his Glock and counted the bullets, the filing states, adding that he later “removed all his bullets from his magazine” while en route back to the sheriff’s station. In an interview with investigators, Meads eventually confessed that he “altered the gun he used to shoot at Brown’s vehicle,” according to the filing, but “only after it was depicted on another officer’s body camera footage” that he had removed the magazine from the weapon before handing it over as evidence.
“According to Defendant Meads, he only wanted to count his bullets,” it says.
Two other officers on the scene did not fire their weapons at Brown because they had been briefed earlier that he would likely be unarmed, and he posed no immediate danger to them while attempting to flee, the amended lawsuit explains.
The filing comes about five months after attorneys for the Brown family filed their original $30 million lawsuit, alleging deputies used unlawful deadly force against the unarmed man.
Womble, the Pasquotank DA, ultimately declined to charge Meads, Morgan, or Lewellyn, asserting that the shooting was “consistent with” the officers’ training “and fully supported under law.” The three, who were placed on administrative leave following Brown’s death, were reinstated by Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten in June. Meads and Morgan have since returned to work; Lewellyn opted to resign.