A North Carolina district attorney announced on Tuesday that the fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr., an unarmed Black man who was killed inside his vehicle last month, was “justified” and that no charges will be brought against the officers who shot him.
“Mr. Brown's death, while tragic, was justified,” Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble said at a lengthy press conference announcing the findings of the State Bureau of Investigation’s probe. “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.”
Brown, 42, died on April 21 after deputies in Elizabeth City, N.C., shot him as they were attempting to execute a drug-related search warrant at his home.
Womble said the officers serving the search warrant were told that Brown had a history of resisting arrest and assault convictions dating back to 1995.
At the press conference, slides from body cameras worn by officers were displayed showing the attempted arrest.
Womble said Brown's moving vehicle made contact with law enforcement officers twice before the deputies opened fire.
"The officers who used deadly force on Andrew Brown Jr. did so reasonably and only when a violent felon used a deadly weapon to place their lives in danger," Womble said. He then played 44 seconds of body camera footage of the shooting.
Brown’s family attorneys have disputed authorities’ account and have demanded that the full 20 minutes of footage be released to the public.
Late last month, a judge ruled against the public release of body camera footage for at least 30 days so that authorities can complete an investigation into Brown's death.
Police had allowed family members to privately view the footage. The family said it showed an “execution.”
An independent autopsy commissioned by Brown’s family showed he was shot five times, including once to the back of the head.
Womble said the results of the state’s autopsy have not been finalized, but preliminary results show that Brown was shot twice, including once to the back of the head. Womble also said a plastic bag containing a substance believed to be crystal methamphetamine was found in Brown’s mouth.
The FBI has launched a separate civil rights probe into the shooting.
After the press conference, attorneys for the Brown family released a statement accusing Womble of attempting to "whitewash this unjustified killing."
“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 statement read. "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."
The family reiterated its demand for the public release of the full video "because we certainly got neither transparency nor justice today."
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