During a press conference on Tuesday, District Attorney Andrew Womble announced that the three officers involved with the death of Andrew Brown Jr. were justified in using deadly force because of Brown’s behavior.
“Mr. Brown’s death, while tragic, was justified because Mr. Brown’s actions caused three deputies to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others,” Womble said.
Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten announced during the press conference that the three officers would be reinstated and retrained. Two deputies did not turn on their body cameras during their encounter with Brown.
“While the district attorney concluded that no criminal law was violated, this was a terrible and tragic outcome, and we could do better,” Wooten said.
Brown was shot five times by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on April 21. The officers were attempting to serve Brown with two felony warrants and a search warrant. 14 shell casings from two Glock handguns and an AR-15 were found on the scene, according to Womble.
Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, Brown’s family attorney, said that she’s “not sure what the discipline is going to entail” and that “it needs to be severe discipline.”
“They did not follow their own policies,” the attorney said. “They were not being safe during the entire interaction.”
Attorneys Ben Crump, Bakari Sellers, Harry Daniels, and Cherry-Lassiter issued a statement on Tuesday. The attorneys believe that the DA tried to “whitewash” Brown’s death. They are demanding that the court release the report and the complete footage from the body camera videos.
“To say this shooting was justified, despite the known facts, is both an insult and a slap in the face to Andrew’s family, the Elizabeth City community, and to rational people everywhere,” the attorneys said. “Not only was the car moving away from officers, but four of them did not fire their weapons – clearly, they did not feel that their lives were endangered. And the bottom line is that Andrew was killed by a shot to the back of the head. Interestingly, none of these issues were appropriately addressed in today’s press conference.”
Womble played a 44-second video that shows the officers exiting their vehicles and removing Brown from his.
“When you employ a car in a manner 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 and our case law.”
“At no point did we ever see Mr. Brown make contact with law enforcement,” Chance Lynch, Brown’s family attorney, said. “We were able to see where they possibly reached out to make contact to him, but we did not see any actions on Mr. Brown’s part where he made contact with them or try to go in their direction. In fact, he did just the opposite.”
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein wants the court to release the complete footage of the incident.
“I continue to believe it is critically important to release the full body camera footage to the public. The trust in our criminal justice system that is currently fractured will only be more difficult to repair w/o complete transparency. Now that the investigation has concluded, it is imperative that the court authorize the release of the full video to the public immediately,” the attorney general tweeted.
On Monday, a North Carolina judge issued a written order ruling that the video footage will not be released publicly at this time.
According to CNN, the attorneys for Brown’s family call for Womble to recuse himself from the case because of conflicts between the prosecutor and the sheriff’s office.
“I know that a lack of accurate information is frustrating to the public and media that operate on a 24-hour news cycle, but in this age of instant media and the impulse to immediately form an opinion, I’m asking that as we move forward, we remind ourselves that in these cases we should not jump to conclusions until all the facts are out,” Womble said.