Elizabeth City, NC – Protesters blocked traffic and harassed people in residential areas on Tuesday evening after the district attorney released bodycam footage showing Andrew Brown ramming his vehicle into a deputy before he was fatally shot.
Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies were trying to serve a drug-related search warrant on Brown when the incident occurred, WAVY reported.
North Carolina First Judicial District District Attorney Andrew Womble announced earlier on Tuesday that his office wouldn’t criminally charge any of the deputies involved in the fatal shooting because Brown’s death was “justified due to his actions,” WTVD reported.
“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.
The district attorney told reporters police “were duty-bound to stand their ground” and to take Brown into custody on his outstanding warrant on April 21.
“They could not simply let him go as has been suggested,” Womble said.
He released four different bodycam videos on Tuesday after announcing that none of the deputies who fatally shot Brown would be criminally charged, WTVD reported.
Brown’s family denounced the prosecutor’s conclusion that the shooting was justified, calling it “both an insult and a slap in the face,” according to WAVY.
Demonstrators shut down intersections and brought traffic to a standstill as they marched through the streets yelling “f—k the police” on Tuesday evening, cell phone videos showed.
One clip showed the mob congregating outside the home of a former Elizabeth City deputy police chief, screaming and yelling at him as car horns blared and a rider on a motorbike tore across the lawn.
“F—k you racist b—ches!” one demonstrator shrieked.
#BLM protesters show up at the home of the former deputy police chief in #ElizabethCity, N.C. to oppose the DA’s decision to not bring charges against deputies who were almost run over by drug dealer #AndrewBrown. They call the people at the home racist. pic.twitter.com/JChYN4tpbL
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) May 19, 2021
Protest organizer Keith Rivers said the case needs to go before a grand jury, WAVY reported.
“If this is looked at through the lens of the victim, which is Andrew Brown Jr. and his family — and not the justification of the sheriff’s deputies’ actions — that this should go forth to a grand jury and let them decide whether or not it needs to be in the courts,” Rivers told the news outlet.
Demonstrators have called on North Carolina residents to join in a statewide “economic protest” on Wednesday, WAVY reported.
#BLM protesters have shut down roads in #ElizabethCity, N.C. after deputies were cleared by DA after shooting #AndrewBrown, a drug dealer who tried to run them over. A young child with a bullhorn has been put through a moving car’s sunroof. pic.twitter.com/kZK5FQQH8H
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) May 19, 2021
If everyone agrees not to spend any money that day, it will put pressure on Womble to call in an outside investigator to take another look at the officer-involved shooting, they said.
“They killed him on a Wednesday, and we want to show that until you do the right things by the community, the community is not going to pay you,” demonstrator Jessica Kelly told WTKR. “We want everyone in North Carolina to spend no money until justice is served for Andrew Brown.”
Kelly said “Spendless Wednesdays” will continue each week until they achieve the outcome they’ve demanded, WTKR reported.
Rivers said Womble should have called in a special prosecutor to handle the case from the get-go, according to the news outlet.
“The district attorney, from day one, could’ve had went out and said, ‘Let’s get a special prosecutor,’” Rivers declared. “The perception is now there is no transparency. It has caused a breach in trust.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened a civil rights probe into the shooting, CBS News reported.
Bodycam video showed deputies – most of whom were wearing SWAT gear – arrived at Brown’s home in the back of a pickup truck to serve a search warrant and two felony arrest warrants for selling drugs to undercover officers shortly before 8:30 a.m. on April 21.
The videos showed the deputies jumped out of the truck and surrounded Brown’s blue sedan yelling at him to show his hands.
Multiple deputies surrounded Brown’s vehicle with their weapons drawn, the bodycam showed.
One of the deputies ran up to the driver’s door of Brown’s vehicle and tried to open the door.
That’s when Brown threw his car in reverse and turned his wheel, striking a deputy beside the vehicle as he tried to back up.
He backed his vehicle up against the house and the back porch and video showed deputies once again surrounded his vehicle ordering him to “Stop! Stop!”
But the video showed Brown put his car in drive and slammed on the gas, driving directly at the deputies.
Video showed Brown struck one of the deputies as he tried to flee, but continued to try to escape.
Deputies opened fire on Brown only after he had hit the deputy, the bodycam showed.
Brown continued to flee across the lawn and toward another parked car that turned out to be an unmarked police vehicle.
He lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a tree in a yard across the street.
Bodycam videos showed that deputies surrounded Brown’s vehicle and ordered him to “show me your hands” multiple times before they reached into the car and pulled him out.
Deputies can be heard calling for EMS to come quickly after they discovered Brown had been shot, the videos showed.
Womble said that only 44 seconds elapsed between when deputies jumped out of the pickup truck and when they pulled Brown out of his wrecked car, WTVD reported.
“Brown’s precise speed in attempting to flee and striking Deputy Lundsford is uncertain. But that he drove recklessly and endangered the officers, is not uncertain. Therefore, I find that Brown’s actions and conduct were indeed dangerous by the time of the shooting,” the district attorney said.
The release of the bodycam videos comes after weeks of protest and demands by Brown’s family, WTVD reported.
The family held a press conference in April after they were shown the footage and claimed it showed deputies started shooting at Brown as he sat still in his car.
“We were able to see Mr. Brown sitting in his vehicle – that he was ambushed as the sheriff’s office made their way to his residence,” an attorney for the Brown family told reporters. “Appearing to be surprised. At all times his hands were visible. At all times he did not appear to be a threat.”
Womble said that was not the case and that the bodycam videos showed Brown recklessly endangered the deputies and others with his actions.
“Mr. Brown’s conduct did not merely risk injuring officers by the time of the shooting, Brown had made two aggressive driving moves which caused his vehicle to contact Deputy Lunsford on both occasions,” the district attorney explained. “When the officers approached Brown with their guns drawn, his response was to maneuver his car and flee.”
Womble said Brown’s decision to try to run in the face of two felony arrest warrants was “reckless.”
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said the deputies who shot Brown will keep their positions but will be disciplined and retrained, WAVY reported.
They have been identified as Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Investigator Daniel Meads, Corporal Aaron Lewellyn, and Deputy Robert Morgan.