Andrew Brown Jr., the Black man killed last week by sheriff’s deputies executing a search and arrest warrant, was shot five times—including one “kill shot to the back of the head” while his hands were on the steering wheel, according to his family’s lawyers and an independent autopsy.
The autopsy by Dr. Brent Hall, commissioned by the family’s lawyers, showed that the 42-year-old also had four bullet wounds in his right arm. The fatal shot to the head penetrated his brain and skull and didn’t exit his head, Wayne Kendall, an attorney for the family, said during a Tuesday press conference. Another attorney described Brown’s death as an “overkill execution.”
“His death was caused by these officers with a bullet wound to the back of his head that caused him to lose control of the vehicle and crash into a tree,” Kendall said. “The time of death was within minutes of this particular gunshot wound to the head.”
The report comes a day after Brown’s family and their lawyers called out officials in Pasquotank County, North Carolina for only letting them view 20 seconds of body-camera footage from the Wednesday arrest—despite at least eight officers responding to the scene. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said officials tried to allow just two relatives to see the video without lawyers present. Bakari Sellers, another attorney, said that during a contentious debate over the footage, Pasquotank County Attorney Michael Cox said he was not going to be “fucking bullied.”
“There’s too much violence. Yesterday, I said he was executed. This autopsy report shows me that was correct,” Brown’s son, Khalil Ferebee, said Tuesday. “The gunshots to the arm, is that not enough? Stuff gotta change for real.”
On Tuesday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called for a special prosecutor to be appointed “to help assure the community” and Brown’s family that a “decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias.”
Some have called for Attorney General Josh Stein’s office to take over, but Stein tweeted his support for the State Bureau of Investigation’s independent probe of the case. Under state law, a district attorney must request the attorney general’s assistance, and Stein said his office had offered such assistance.
On Tuesday, the FBI said it had opened a federal civil rights investigation into Brown’s death and will work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina “to determine whether federal laws were violated.”
The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office has offered few details surrounding the killing other than to say Brown was shot at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday while deputies were serving a search warrant and arrest warrant in Elizabeth City on felony drug charges.
In a brief video statement last week, Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said the operation was classified as “high-risk” because Brown was a convicted felon with a history of resisting arrest. The search warrant, obtained by WAVY, said authorities had been watching Brown for over a year, and a confidential informant had allegedly bought drugs from him.
Chanel Lassiter, one of the family’s lawyers, said Monday that the footage showed Brown’s hands were on the steering wheel when authorities opened fire. Some officers shouted, “Stop it, motherfucker” and Brown was unarmed, Lassiter said. At one point, Brown backed out of the driveway to “evade being shot,” then crashed into a tree as officers kept firing, Lassiter said.
Brown’s family planned to go to court Wednesday to demand the release of more body-camera footage. In one of several legal hurdles put up by state, city, and local officials, body-camera footage can’t be released in North Carolina without a court order as it’s not considered to be a public record. Fogg said on Monday they’d comply with any judge’s order.
“I want answers about what happened as much as the public does,” Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said in a Tuesday statement. “The private autopsy released by the family is important and I continue to pray for them during this difficult time. However, a private autopsy is just one piece of the puzzle. The independent investigation being performed by the SBI is crucial and the interviews, forensics, and other evidence they gather will help ensure that justice is accomplished.”
Brown’s death last week, just hours after a Minneapolis jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd, prompted hundreds of residents to take to the streets in protest. Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker declared a state of emergency ahead of the release of body-cam footage, with authorities saying they believe there may be a “period of civil unrest.” The order means all city offices and local schools are closed until at least the end of the week.
Brown’s death capped a horror week for police shootings. In the 24 hours after the Chauvin verdict, police killed six people including 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant. Earlier this month, 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, was shot after a white cop apparently mistook her Taser for her gun during a traffic stop.
“You don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican to understand that injustice was done. You don’t have to be Black or white,” Sellers, one of the Brown family attorneys, said Tuesday. “We have an execution here in Elizabeth City. We demand justice for Andrew Brown and his family and children.”
Court records show that Brown had a history of criminal charges since the 1990s, including a misdemeanor drug-possession conviction and at least two pending felony drug charges. Fogg said for that reason, deputies were accompanied by their local version of a SWAT team, and other agencies were assisting.
In a video obtained by WAVY, several deputies and SWAT teams can be seen arriving at a house, presumably Brown’s. “Get your hands up,” you can hear officers yell. In a statement, Brown’s legal team said the video proved Brown “was brought down by an inflamed modern-day lynch mob.”
Brown’s family has said no drugs or weapons were seized from his property or car, according to attorney Harry Daniels.
Brown’s neighbor, Demetria Williams, previously told the Associated Press that she heard gunshots, and ran outside to see a deputy firing multiple times. She said the car Brown was driving then skidded into a tree. “When [deputies] opened the [car] door, he was already dead. He was slumped over,” she said.
Authorities later removed a car from the scene with a broken rear windshield and multiple bullet holes, the AP reported. Seven officers involved have been put on administrative leave, Wooten said last week.