This past Tuesday, Andrew Womble, the District Attorney of North Carolina Pasquotank County, issued a statement that the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. during the execution of serving drug-related search and arrest warrants by law enforcement this past month was completely “justified” as he discussed the findings of a completely independent investigation conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Womble went on to add that the three deputies that were part of the whole ordeal who fired their service weapons will not see any charges at all. “While tragic, the shooting of Mr. Brown was justified due to his actions,” Womble stated.
CNN reported that “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 added. “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 continued, “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.”
NBC News stated that Womble brought up case law that allows authorities to have discretion in the utilization of deadly force in a situation where a suspect is fleeing.
“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 stated.
The representation of Brown’s family has been extremely vocal about the incident and lashed out this past month about the video retrieved from body camera footage that was available for viewing at the time. One of the lawyers, Wayne Kendall stated, “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.”
Bakari Sellers, Brown family attorney, released a statement to CNN that the attorney will be seeking to file a petition to put out all of the body camera footage and the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) report.