By Koda Slingluff and Leah Timmerman
PASQUOTANK COUNTY, N.C. – Following the investigation into the fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown, Jr., District Attorney Andrew Womble here has announced the officers’ actions were justified.
Womble claimed that, since the officers reasonably believed they were in danger, the shooting was justified. The prosecutor has declined to file charges against the officers who shot Brown through the back of the skull.
The shooting occurred on April 21 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, after deputies arrived to serve Brown a drug-related search and arrest warrant. This was just a day after the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of unarmed black civilian George Floyd in Minnesota.
Bodycam footage showed that uniformed law enforcement officers arrived in a marked police truck to arrest Brown and surrounded him as he sat inside his vehicle. Brown then attempted to flee, while as many as three officers fired at his vehicle.
Of seven present, the three officers confirmed to have fired their guns are Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan and Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn. Two of the officers neglected to turn on their body cameras.
According to DA Womble, an officer was threatened by Brown’s driving, which led to the shots fired.
Womble expanded on the circumstances, saying that Brown “had made two aggressive driving moves which caused his vehicle to contact Deputy Lunsford on both occasions.” Deputy Lunsford sustained no injury.
“When the officers approached Brown with their guns drawn his response was to maneuver his car and flee. Brown was undeterred by the officers yelling for him to stop, show me your hands, or by Deputy Lunsford attempting to open the driver’s door,” Womble stated.
The first shot was fired by Investigator Meads, entering the front windshield of Brown’s car. Brown then accelerated past the deputies as one shot entered the passenger window, striking Brown in the shoulder. Several more shots entered the rear passenger side door and window.
As Brown’s vehicle continued down the street through gunfire, Brown was shot five times. The car struck a tree after 14 bullets were fired.
Womble stated that, once the car crashed, “the Pasquotank County team gave chase, removed Brown from the driver’s seat, and life-saving efforts were immediately begun.”
An autopsy commissioned by the family showed the five bullet wounds—and one to the back of the head. The bullet to his head splintered into three pieces, so Womble was not able to determine which of the officers fired the fatal shot.
Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee has been outspoken on behalf of his father, calling his death an execution.
Reflecting on the autopsy report, Khalil said, “Those three gunshots to the arm, that wasn’t enough? That wasn’t enough? It’s obvious he was trying to get away. It’s obvious.”
Andrew Brown, Jr.,’s family had to fight for access to footage of the incident. After a week, they were able to see just 20 seconds of the footage. While still technically not released to the public, the footage was shown by Womble Tuesday.
But, according to DA Andrew Womble, the killing, “while tragic, was justified.
“Mr. Brown’s actions caused three deputies with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others,” Womble stated.
Womble’s position hinges on the view that Brown was a “violent felon” using his car as a “deadly weapon to place their lives in danger.”
While Brown did have pending felony charges, all charges were drug related. The warrant that the police were acting under cited drug sales, but did not cite any violent crimes, according to public record.
A civil rights investigation by the FBI is still ongoing. In the meantime, several officers have returned to active duty, and protests continue on Brown’s behalf.
For many civil rights advocates, Brown has become another name on the long list of Black Americans murdered unjustly by police. For Womble and others in Elizabeth City law enforcement, this was a justified tragedy.
Summarizing law enforcement’s position, Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten, II, said, “This should not have happened this way at all. While the deputies did not break the law, we all wish things could’ve gone differently, much differently.”
Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.
Leah Timmerman is a 4th year Political Science and American Studies major at UC Davis. She is originally from Los Angeles, California.
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