North Carolina Pasquotank County District Attorney R. Andrew Womble stated Tuesday that the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. during an encounter with law enforcement last month was “justified” as he discussed the results of an independent investigation conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Womble added that the three deputies involved in the incident who fired their weapons will not face charges. “While tragic, the shooting of Mr. Brown was justified due to his actions,” Womble said.
As reported by CNN, “Brown was shot twice, including once in the back of the head, by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on April 21 when they attempted to serve two felony warrants and a search warrant, Womble said. Four body-camera videos shown to the public for the first time showed the entirety of the incident, which lasts 44 seconds from the time officers exit their vehicle to the time Brown is removed from his.”
The videos show that uniformed law enforcement officers arrived in a marked police truck to arrest Brown and surrounded him as he sat inside his vehicle.
They ordered him to stop the car, Womble said, but Brown instead reversed his car into a corner, pulling a deputy who was trying to open the car door off his feet. Brown then accelerated forward in his attempt to flee, forcing the deputy to jump out of the way, the videos show.
After Brown’s vehicle drove toward the deputy, a sergeant on scene then fired into the front window, the videos show. The car continued forward, and officers fired several more shots at Brown from the side and through the back windshield, he said. Brown’s vehicle accelerated across a vacant lot and drove at another officer sitting in an unmarked police vehicle, which accelerated to avoid a collision, Womble said.
Brown’s vehicle finally came to a rest against a tree, and the officers removed Brown and called for emergency services, he said.
Womble said Brown’s driving constituted a threat and justified the officers’ decision to shoot at him. He also offered an expansive interpretation of what officers are legally allowed to do.
”When you employ a car in a way that puts officers’ lives in danger, that is a threat,” Womble said. “And I don’t care what direction you’re going, forward, backwards, sideways. I don’t care if you’re stationary, and neither do our courts.”
“The deputies faced both actual and apparent danger as perceived by them on the scene,” Womble said. “This apparent threat was reinforced by Brown’s dangerous and felonious use of a deadly weapon. As tragic as this incident is with the loss of life, the deputies on scene were nonetheless justified in defending themselves from death or great bodily injury.”
He added, “There is insufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to show that any of the deputies acted in a manner that was inconsistent with their perception of an apparent threat.”
“Once a threat is perceived … and the officers fire the first shot, if the first shot is justified, the last shot is justified until the threat is extinguished,” Womble said.
Attorneys for Brown’s family have been vocal about the shooting and spoke out last month about the clip from body camera footage they were able to view at the time. Wayne Kendall, one of the lawyers, said, “This, in fact, was a fatal wound to the back of Mr. Brown’s head as he was leaving the site trying to evade being shot at by these particular law enforcement officers that we believe did nothing but a straight-up execution.”
Brown family attorney Bakari Sellers said in a statement to CNN that the attorneys will be filing a petition to put out all of the body camera footage and State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) report. He also said the video did not demonstrate Brown using his vehicle as a weapon and made the argument that Womble did not explain the shot to the back of Brown’s head in an adequate way.