Execution: The autopsy shows he was shot five times by police, attorneys say
Attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown, a Black man killed by deputies last week, said on Tuesday an independent autopsy showed he was shot five times, including in the back of the head. “It was a kill shot to the back of the head,” one attorney, Ben Crump, told reporters. “It went into the base of the neck, bottom of the skull and got lost in his brain. That was the cause of death.” Another lawyer, Wayne Kendall, said Brent Hall, a former medical examiner in Boone, North Carolina, hired by the Brown family, had examined Andrew Brown’s body. The doctor noted four wounds to the right arm and one to the head.
The family’s lawyers also released a copy of the death certificate, which lists the cause of death as a “penetrating gunshot wound of the head.” The certificate, signed by a paramedic services instructor who serves as a local medical examiner, describes the death as a homicide.
Brown was shot last Wednesday by deputies serving drug-related search and arrest warrants in Elizabeth City, a town in north-east North Carolina with a population of about 18,000, of which about half is Black.
“We have an execution here in Elizabeth City,” said the attorney Bakari Sellers. “We demand justice. We demand justice for Andrew Brown and his family.”
“You don’t have to be Black, you don’t have to be white. You just have to have a beating heart to understand that injustice was done.”
Another lawyer, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, said: “This is painful, for his family and this community. This was an execution – an assassination of this unarmed Black man.”
The shooting has prompted days of protests and calls for justice and transparency, including demands for the release of body-camera footage. Later on Tuesday, the FBI field office in Charlotte said it had opened a civil rights investigation.
On Monday, the Pasquotank county sheriff, Tommy Wooten, and the chief deputy, Daniel Fogg, urged the public to reserve judgment until all evidence is reviewed by the state bureau of investigation.
“This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher,” Wooten said in a video posted on social media. “They only tell part of the story.”
But family lawyers accused authorities of “hiding” video evidence, after relatives were shown only a 20-second clip of the incident from a single officer’s body camera.
At an afternoon press conference, attorneys said the snippet they were permitted to view showed Brown, 42, with his hands on the steering wheel of the car he was driving when he was shot dead in a hail of police bullets.
A court hearing on access to the video has been scheduled for Wednesday. The hearing will consider petitions to release the footage, including filings by a media coalition and by the county attorney on behalf of the sheriff.
A North Carolina law that took effect in 2016 allows law enforcement agencies to show body camera video privately to a victim’s family, but it generally requires a court to approve any public release.
It’s not clear how soon a judge could rule or how quickly the video would be released if the release is approved. In similar cases, it has sometimes taken weeks for the full legal process to play out.
Democrats in the North Carolina general assembly filed a measure this month proposing that body camera video be released within 48 hours unless a law enforcement agency asks a court to delay its distribution. But the legislation faces long odds with the GOP controlling both chambers of the legislature.
The family’s lawyers and racial justice advocates noted that law enforcement agencies in other states have moved faster. In Columbus, Ohio, the day before Brown was shot, body camera footage was released within hours of an officer fatally shooting a 16-year-old Black girl who was swinging a knife at another girl.
“My dad got executed just trying to save his own life,” Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s son, said on Monday. “It’s messed up how this happened. It ain’t right. It ain’t right at all.”
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A judge on Wednesday denied requests to release body-camera video in the case of a Black man who was shot to death by North Carolina deputies as they tried to arrest him on drug-related warrants. Judge Jeffery Foster said he believed the videos contained information that could harm the investigation or threaten the safety of people seen in the footage. He said the video must remain out of public view for at least 30 days.