Sheriff's deputies were justified in fatally shooting Andrew Brown Jr., district attorney says
- North Carolina investigators have found the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. justified, the DA announced.
- Brown was shot dead by sheriff's deputies on April 21 when they approached him to serve a warrant.
- Brown's family has said he was sitting in his car with his hands on the wheel when he was shot.
Investigators in North Carolina have found the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. to be justified, the Pasquotank County district attorney announced Tuesday.
Sheriff's deputies shot and killed Brown on April 21 in Elizabeth City when they tried to serve him with an arrest warrant on felony drug charges. An independent autopsy released by Brown's family revealed that he died from a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
District Attorney Andrew Womble revealed the results of the State Bureau of Investigation's probe into the killing in a press conference. No law enforcement officers will be criminally charged, he said.
"After reviewing the investigation conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Brown's death, while tragic, was justified because 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 said.
County officials and lawyers for Brown's family had disputed exactly what happened ahead of the shooting.
Womble previously said that Brown hit officers with his car before they fired at him. But an attorney for the Brown family, Chase Lynch, viewed 18 minutes of body camera footage last week and said it showed Brown was stationary in his car with his hands on the wheel when he was shot.
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Attorneys for Brown's family condemned the announcement by the DA, calling it a "slap in the face."
Andrew Brown Jr., his grieving family, and this community deserve answers," Attorney Ben Crump said in a written statement to the media. "And they recieved anything but from D.A. Wombles attempt to whitewash this unjustified killing."
Crump called on the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to release all of the documents stemming from the probe into Brown's killing, and for the federal Department of Justice to intervene.
Brown's family and attorneys were previously shown just 20 seconds of the body camera footage, which Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten had described as "shaky and hard to decipher."
A North Carolina judge ordered last month that the body camera footage not be released to the public until the investigation into Brown's death was complete.
On Tuesday, Womble played a portion of the deputies' body camera footage for reporters. It was the first time video of Brown's shooting had been shown publicly.
The footage shows deputies, who are dressed in black protective gear and carrying guns, jumping from the back of a police vehicle. The deputies run at Brown's car and demand he exit the vehicle, then start firing at the car as it begins moving.
Brown used his car as a "deadly weapon," according to the DA
Womble said Brown was using his car as a deadly weapon and putting deputies' lives at risk. Brown's car made contact specifically with Sergeant Joel Lunsford, he said.
Reporters at the press conference peppered Womble with questions, noting that it appeared Brown was fleeing deputies, backing away from officers, and not attempting to run them over.
Womble responded that the shooting was justified as long as Brown was driving in a way that was dangerous to the officers or others. Brown began using the car as a "deadly weapon" when he ignored deputies' commands to get out of the car with his hands on his head, he said.
The district attorney said repeatedly during the press conference that Brown was "a felon" with a history of assault and evading arrest. He told reporters that drugs were found in the car after Brown was shot, but that he was not known to carry a gun, and no gun was found in the car.
Deputies fired 14 bullets from two handguns and a rifle at the vehicle. One was found in a house nearby. Two bullets struck Brown, one in his arm. The fatal shot struck base of Brown's back of his neck.
The DA previously refused calls to recuse himself from the Brown case
Critics have said Womble had too close of a working relationship with the sheriff's deputies involved to make a fair decision on whether to bring criminal charges.
Womble said in Tuesday's press conference that as an elected official, he must answer to the community, unlike an outside prosecutor.
"A special prosecutor or outside counsel is not accountable to this district," he said.
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