Special News Series: Rising Up For Justice! – What We Know About the Killing of Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina

Introduction To This Series:

This post is one installment in an ongoing news series: a “living history” of the current national and international uprising for justice.

Today’s movement descends directly from the many earlier civil rights struggles against repeated injustices and race-based violence, including the killing of unarmed Black people. The posts in this series serve as a timeline of the uprising that began on May 26, 2020, the day after a Minneapolis police officer killed an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck. The viral video of Floyd’s torturous suffocation brought unprecedented national awareness to the ongoing demand to truly make Black Lives Matter in this country.

The posts in this series focus on stories of the particular killings that have spurred the current uprising and on the protests taking place around the USA and across the globe. Sadly, thousands of people have lost their lives to systemic racial, gender, sexuality, judicial, and economic injustice. The few whose names are listed here represent the countless others lost before and since. Likewise, we can report but a few of the countless demonstrations for justice now taking place in our major cities, small towns, and suburbs.

To view the entire series of Rising Up for Justice! posts, insert “rising up” in the search bar above.

What We Know About the Killing of Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina

By Adeel Hassan, New York Times

April 28, 2021

Andrew Brown photo provided by his cousin Jadine Hampton.

The killing of a 42-year-old Black man in coastal North Carolina by sheriff’s deputies is being scrutinized by state and federal authorities, and Gov. Roy Cooper has called for a special prosecutor to take over the case from a local district attorney…

Anger and frustration are mounting as Mr. Brown’s family, backed by public officials, seeks the release of the body-camera footage of his final moments, and as the names of the officers involved have not been released.

Here’s what we know about the death of Mr. Brown.

Just before 8:30 a.m. on April 21, deputies with the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office, dressed in tactical gear, drove down a residential street and arrived at a home in Elizabeth City, video footage shows. Moments later, several shots were fired at Mr. Brown. (The video was obtained by WAVY, a Virginia-based television station, through a public records request.)

20-second snippet of the shooting from a deputy’s body camera was released to Mr. Brown’s family and their lawyer, who called it an “execution.” A private autopsy, paid for by his family, showed that he was hit by five bullets and killed by a shot to the head.

The family’s lawyer said that Mr. Brown was sitting inside his car, hands “firmly on the wheel,” when gunshots were fired. He did not appear to be holding a weapon, and was driving away as the police continued to shoot.

But the local prosecutor said the footage showed that Mr. Brown was trying to escape and that his car struck deputies, who then began shooting.

The Pasquotank County sheriff said that deputies had been executing an arrest warrant on felony drug charges, but he did not say how many deputies were on the scene, how many of them opened fire, and how many rounds were fired. The shooting is being investigated by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

The local version of a SWAT team, as well as deputies from another agency, were executing the arrest warrant when Mr. Brown was shot, the authorities said. Such raids account for only a small share of officer-involved fatalities. But in a country where four in 10 adults have guns in their homes, they are the most combustible, and the police often use major shows of force to take these actions.

Mr. Brown’s family was told that no drugs or weapons had been retrieved from the property or the car, their lawyer said last week. And their legal team has not yet seen the search warrant that officials say was being executed at the time of the shooting.

In North Carolina, police body-camera videos can be released to the public only with a judge’s approval. Anyone may request the release of a video, though some stakeholders can object to its release or ask for sections to be blurred, said Frayda Bluestein, a professor of public law and government at the University of North Carolina.

The sheriff said that he wants body-camera video to be made public, and the county lawyer has filed a petition for the release of the videos. On Tuesday, Governor Cooper, a Democrat, also called for the video’s release. A group of media outlets, including The New York Times, also petitioned for its release. But a judge on Wednesday declined to release the footage, agreeing with a prosecutor to delay its public airing for at least 30 days.

While some body-camera footage is released almost immediately, it’s not unusual for there to be a delay in the release.

Seven sheriff’s deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting, in an office that has 55 full-time deputies. We don’t know the names of those involved. At the hearing on Wednesday, a lawyer for the deputies said the killing was justified.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Tuesday that it was starting a civil rights investigation into the shooting by the agency’s Charlotte field office, which will work with federal prosecutors and the civil rights division of the Justice Department.

Elizabeth City is a historic town of about 18,000 people in the northeast corner of the state. Its mayor and its police chief are Black, as are 50 percent of its residents. There have been peaceful demonstrations there since the day of the shooting. Residents have been demanding that body-camera footage be released to the public. On Tuesday, though, officials in Elizabeth City and surrounding Pasquotank County established curfews from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m…

Wayne Kendall, a lawyer for Mr. Brown’s family, showed a private autopsy’s depiction of the fatal wound.
Credit: Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation will continue its inquiry, and the findings of an official government autopsy could be publicly released. Mr. Cooper has called for a special prosecutor to take over the case, which belongs to the local district attorney for now.

A funeral will be held Monday for Mr. Brown in Elizabeth City, with the Rev. Al Sharpton delivering the eulogy.

Read the full article here.

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