ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — The lawyers for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., the man shot and killed by law enforcement last Wednesday in Elizabeth City, say he died of a “kill shot” to the back of the head from law enforcement, according to an independent autopsy report.
The news came as demonstrators convened for their seventh day of protests in the wake of Brown’s death, which for the first time ended in multiple arrests after several demonstrators violated a newly-implemented 8 p.m. curfew.
Brown was shot and killed by Pasquotank County deputies that were serving a search warrant. The community continues to call for transparency nearly a week later.
Independent autopsy and a ‘kill shot’
An independent autopsy indicated Brown was struck by four bullets in the arm before the fatal shot to the back of the head, his family members and their attorneys announced Tuesday.
Lawyers and members of Brown’s family said they were shown 20 seconds of footage from a deputy’s body camera on Monday. The video, which hasn’t been shared publicly, showed Brown’s hands were on the steering wheel before deputies started firing, lawyers said.
In response to the Brown family releasing the independent autopsy report, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said that although the report is important, it is “just one piece of the puzzle.”
“The independent investigation of the puzzle being performed by the SBI is crucial and the interviews, forensics, and other evidence they gather will help ensure that justice is accomplished, ” said Wooten.
Lawyers also said Brown was driving away, only after law enforcement started firing, because he feared for his life.
An attorney for the family says they lost count how many shots were fired in the 20 seconds that was shown to the family. They added that shots were already being fired when the video started.
They called Brown’s killing an “execution.”
Brown’s car was also shot after it struck a nearby tree, lawyers said.
“It’s obvious he was trying to get away,” his son said Tuesday. He said violence in response to his father’s death is not the answer, but things have to change.
“You don’t have to be a Democrat or Republican to feel like injustice was done […] you just have to have a beating heart, a moral conscience,” said attorney Bakari Sellers.
The Brown family’s attorneys say they have received nothing from the official medical examiner so far. They commissioned a private post-mortem report.
BELOW: Watch the full briefing on the independent autopsy report.
Call for special prosecutor, FBI announces investigation
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s office released a statement Tuesday calling for a special prosecutor to handle all matters related to the shooting that killed Brown.
“This would help assure the community and Mr. Brown’s family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias,” Cooper said in the statement.
Cooper said bringing in a special prosecutor aligns with a recommended change in law from the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.
“… I believe the law should be changed to help ensure it,” Cooper said.
The FBI also announced Tuesday that it is launching a federal civil rights investigation into the case.
“Agents will work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice to determine whether federal laws were violated. As this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further.”FBI Public Affairs Specialist Shelley Lynch, Charlotte Division
Fight for release of body camera video
Although the body camera video has not been released publicly, WAVY was able to obtain a separate surveillance video from down the street from last Wednesday’s shooting that shows deputies pull up to the scene. Audio cuts out for about 20 seconds when gunfire starts.
WAVY and other media companies have petitioned the court in surrounding Pasquotank County to release the video of the killing. The hearing on that petition is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Sellers, one attorney for Brown’s family, says the North Carolina law prohibiting the release of the body camera video is bad.
“If Andrew Brown had done something to justify his shooting, […] they would have gotten that approval early.”
Sellers said the law doesn’t require a court order to show the family the entire video. They were only shown that 20-second clip on Monday after a delay due to law enforcement blurring out deputies’ faces. Sheriff Tommy Wooten said the incident was “30 seconds” long, but the family only saw 20 seconds.
“We never got to see the initiation of the encounter,” an attorney said.
Seven deputies were placed on administrative leave after the incident and three who were not directly involved resigned. Nationally-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump said policies need to be changed.
People who watched Tuesday’s press conference screamed “arrest them!” after the reading of the report.
“The law enforcement in this country cannot be the judge, jury and executioner,” an attorney for the family said.
Day 7 of protests
For the first time since protests started last week, Tuesday’s demonstrations resulted in some arrests after some refused to leave the streets after an 8 p.m. curfew.
Around 5 p.m. Tuesday, the protesters convened for their seventh day of demonstrations. Protests have been peaceful in the days following Brown’s death, including on Monday night after the family shared what they saw on the body camera footage.
Protesters want authorities to publicly release the body camera footage, which can only happen with a court order. The sheriff said last week he intended to start that process, and Elizabeth City council members also instructed their city attorney to work petitioning for its release.
Elizabeth City and surrounding Pasquotank County are both under states of emergency ahead of the release of the body camera footage.
Tuesday, Mayor Bettie Parker instituted an 8 p.m. curfew in the city. While Parker did not give a reason, Councilman Gabriel Adkins it had to with some protesters throwing eggs and rocks at police cars Monday night.
Still protest organizer Kirk Rivers said he didn’t agree with the move.
“We were blindsided by the curfew we did not expect to hear this,” Rivers said. “We’ve felt like we have modeled what a peaceful protest should be about.”
Rivers along with roughly 200 other demonstrators spent much of the evening shutting down streets and the bridge from Elizabeth City into Camden County. A separate group of protesters also shut down Route 17 at Route 158, a major intersection in Pasquotank County Tuesday night. That group dispersed at 8 p.m.
Elizabeth City police gave several warnings for protesters to disperse beginning around 7:30 p.m.
Around the time of those first warnings, protest leaders could be heard telling the crowd that if they didn’t want to get arrested, they needed to go home.
Roughly 100 people, including Rivers, remained until 9 p.m. He said it was to send a message that the curfew was not needed.
“We’re reaching out to the city tomorrow to ask for a meeting. And to ask them why are we, what instituted the curfew,” Rivers said. He wants Parker either remove the curfew or push it back until 10 p.m.
By 9:30 p.m. Elizabeth City police were in a “soft posture” as demonstrators still refused to leave an intersection. Some officers were seen wearing riot gear.
The final warning was given to disperse around 10 p.m. There were still about 30 people at the intersection of Elizabeth Street and Water Street in violation of the curfew at that time.
Police said at that point that arrests would be made and they would use non-lethal measures to remove people from the area.
Police Chief Eddie Buffaloe said the next day that 7 people in total were arrested.
Elizabeth City police tweeted again at 10:50 p.m. saying the crowd had dispersed and the roadway had reopened.
Check back for more coverage.