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FBI opens investigation into Brown shooting; pathologist says he was shot five times

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 8:46 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 3:37 PM EDT
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ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WITN) - The FBI says it has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting death of Andrew Brown, Jr.

In a statement this afternoon, the FBI says its agents will work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh and the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department to determine if any federal laws were broken.

This comes the same day that a pathologist said the Elizabeth City man was shot five times, the fatal one to the back of his head.

The family of Brown and their attorneys shared those results of their independent autopsy this morning.

Wayne Kendall, one of the attorneys for the family, said the first shots were through the front windshield of Brown’s car. He said the man had four wounds to the right arm.

“He was able to back up as these shots were coming into the vehicle,” said Kendall. The attorney said Brown was then shot in the back of the neck, and the bullet lodged in the brain.

The State Medical Examiner is also performing an autopsy on the man’s body, but results typically take three or four months before they are finalized and made public.

Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Tommy Wooten said that he wants answers about what happened as much as the public does.

Governor Roy Cooper is now calling for a special prosecutor be appointed to handle everything involving the Brown shooting. Already, the State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting.

Brown was shot last Wednesday morning as deputies were trying to serve a search warrant at a home on Perry Street. Sheriff Wooten said seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave while three have since resigned.

Lassiter said Monday the man was in his driveway with his hands on the steering wheel of his car. “They ran up to his car shooting,” said Lassiter.

The attorney said Brown still had his hands on the steering wheel as he backed out of the driveway, away from the deputies. Lassiter said the man was shot in the back of his head.

The family said they were only allowed to view twenty seconds from one deputy body camera.

Sheriff Wooten said late Monday afternoon that the county had filed a motion with a Superior Court judge to allow the video to be released to the public.

A coalition of media outlets, including WITN, has already filed suit to have the footage released.

CURFEW ENACTED

A State of Emergency continues to be enforced in Elizabeth City because of concerns of civil unrest. So far, the protests have been peaceful.

In addition, the city has enacted an 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew. The announcement says everyone must be off the streets during that time and the only exceptions will be people traveling to and from work, or emergencies.

The city says visits to stores, gas stations, and other non-emergency travel should be conducted during non-curfew hours.

Elizabeth City says the curfew will remain in effect until further notice.

MONDAY AFTERNOON STORY

The son of Andrew Brown, Jr. said his father was executed by Pasquotank County deputies.

Khalil Ferebee watched a short clip of police body camera footage this afternoon at the county sheriff’s office.

Brown was shot last Wednesday morning as deputies were trying to serve a search warrant at a home on Perry Street. Sheriff Tommy Wooten said seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave while three have since resigned.

Chantel Lassiter, an attorney for the Brown family, said the man was in his driveway with his hands on the steering wheel of his car. “They ran up to his car shooting,” said Lassiter.

The attorney said Brown still had his hands on the steering wheel as he backed out of the driveway, away from the deputies. Lassiter said the man was shot in the back of his head.

The family was supposed to see the video at 11:30 a.m., but that was delayed as the county said it had to blur some of the video involved.

Attorneys said the family was only allowed to see twenty seconds from one body camera.

County attorney Michael Cox earlier today said while state law permits a private viewing to the family, it does allow them to blur some faces on the video to protect an active internal investigation. In a statement, Cox said the county received the family’s request Sunday evening, “we began working immediately to make that happen as soon as possible,” Cox said.

The SBI is investigating the shooting and their results will be turned over to the district attorney.

Late Monday, Sheriff Tommy Wooten & Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said the county attorney filed a motion asking a Superior Court judge to release the body camera video. “This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher,” said the sheriff.”

A coalition of media outlets, including WITN, has already filed suit to have the footage released.

This morning, Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker issued a State of Emergency because of concerns there might be civil unrest once the video was shown to the family.

A two-block area around the courthouse and sheriff’s office has been cordoned off to vehicles.

WARRANT: Drug buys records weeks before Brown shot to death

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina deputies who fatally shot a Black man outside of his house obtained the search warrant that brought them there after investigators recorded him selling small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine to an informant, according to court documents released Monday.

The fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. last Wednesday in Elizabeth City has prompted days of protests, calls for the public release of deputy body camera video and civil rights leaders decrying that warrants shouldn’t lead to a fatal shooting. Signs including emergency scanner traffic and an eyewitness account indicate that Brown was shot in the back as he was trying to drive away. Authorities have released few details.

Brown’s family had hoped to have a private viewing of the body camera video on Monday morning, but county officials indicated that would be delayed because they were working on blurring some faces in the recording.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who’s among lawyers representing Brown’s family, told reporters Monday morning that the delay is meant to protect law enforcement officers at the same time as they release the warrants with negative details about Brown.

“Now, you all may have noticed that they released a warrant saying all kinds of things about Andrew Brown, but they want to redact the face of the ... officers that killed Andrew Brown,” he said, adding that law officials blurring deputies’ faces are “going to protect them and not show their face and not say their names ... because what they want to do is assassinate the character” of Brown.

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II has said that multiple deputies fired shots. Elizabeth City police were not involved in the shooting. Seven deputies are on leave pending a probe by the State Bureau of Investigation.

The warrant released Monday was obtained by the Pasquotank County sheriff’s office and signed by a local judge to allow the search of Brown’s Elizabeth City home. It said that an investigator in nearby Dare County was told by the informant that the person had been purchasing crack cocaine and other drugs for over a year from Brown. The informant described purchasing drugs at the house that was the target of the search.

The warrant said that in March, local narcotics officers used the informant to conduct controlled purchases of methamphetamine and cocaine from Brown on two separate occasions. The warrant says both drug transactions were recorded using audio and video equipment.

The search warrant said investigators believed Brown was storing drugs in the home or two vehicles. The document, which indicated the search wasn’t completed, didn’t list anything found.

The arrest warrants, which were released last week, charged him with possession with intent to sell and deliver 3 grams of each of the drugs.

Calls have been growing to release deputy body camera footage of the incident, which is not public record in North Carolina. A judge must generally sign off on any release of body camera video. Wooten has said he would ask a local judge as early as Monday to allow the release of the footage. A coalition of media has also petitioned the court for its release, and city officials also plan to.

Short of releasing it publicly, state law allows law enforcement to show body camera video privately to a victim’s family. County officials said Monday they will show the video to family after blurring out some of the faces in the video to protect an active internal investigation.

“As soon as these redactions are complete, we will allow the family to view this footage,” Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said in a statement. “We hope this occurs today, but the actual time will be driven by the completion of the redactions.”

Also Monday, Elizabeth City officials declared a state of emergency amid concerns about how demonstrators would react to a possible video release. Protests since the shooting in the eastern North Carolina town of about 18,000 have generally been peaceful.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE

The family of Andrew Brown Jr. is preparing to see the body camera video involving the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr., this morning.

The family’s attorney Harry Daniels said the family should be allowed to see the body camera footage without delay but nothing is guaranteed.

Under North Carolina law, the video can only be released by a judge. A petition must first be filed to the court and then be approved to release the video, which could take a matter of hours or days.

Hours before the family was to view the video, Elizabeth City’s mayor declared a State of Emergency amid concerns of civil unrest.

County Commission Chairman Lloyd Griffin asked the community in a press release on Sunday to be patient in the release of the body camera video involving the shooting death of Andrew Brown, Jr.

“Rushing the gathering of evidence and interviewing of witnesses would hurt any future legal case that might be brought in the wake of this tragedy,” Griffin said. “Justice, when done right, takes time.”

Griffin referenced the police shooting of Danquirs Franklin in Charlotte in 2019 and said it took three weeks for body camera footage of that to be legally released. Griffin said he hopes it doesn’t take that long for the Andrew Brown, Jr. body camera video to be released but said everyone must follow the legal procedures.

“The commissioners support Sheriff Wooten, who is trying to maintain public safety in our county while also being responsive to the needs of the Brown family and those concerned about this shooting,” Griffin said. “It’s easy to criticize and it’s hard to lead.”

The full statement can be read below:

“Good afternoon,

Our entire county leadership grieves with the family of Andrew Brown, Jr., and our prayers go out to them. Everyone should want a thorough, fair, and proper investigation into exactly what happened when deputies attempted to serve the arrest warrant and search warrant at Mr. Brown’s home. Sadly, some irresponsible voices are calling for a rushed investigation and rush to judgement. Rushing the gathering of evidence and interviewing of witnesses would hurt any future legal case that might be brought in the wake of this tragedy. Justice, when done right, takes time. People — including some politicians — who want to score political points or become cable news celebrities too often forget that, which could negatively impact the investigation.

For example, in the tragic police shooting of Danquirs Franklin in Charlotte in 2019, it took three weeks before the body camera footage could be legally released. We all hope it won’t take that long in this case, but everyone must follow the legal procedures. Calling for North Carolina law to be ignored is irresponsible. We ask our community to be patient.

The commissioners support Sheriff Wooten, who is trying to maintain public safety in our county while also being responsive to the needs of the Brown family and those concerned about this shooting. It’s easy to criticize and it’s hard to lead.”

Lloyd Griffin

Chairman of the Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners

SUNDAY AFTERNOON STORY

Calls for transparency continue in Elizabeth City, Sheriff’s Office may file a motion Monday to release Andrew Brown, Jr. shooting video

Protests continued in Elizabeth City on Sunday for the release of the body camera video involving the shooting death of Andrew Brown, Jr.

Protests continue for a fifth day in Elizabeth City. One of the participants said today is a rest day for many, but...

Posted by Austin Pollack on Sunday, April 25, 2021

One of the participants who walked on Sunday said it was a rest day for many people but almost two dozen gathered to continue demanding transparency.

The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office, Attorney General, Governor & NAACP leaders all called for the release of body camera video.

Sheriff Tommy Wooten said on Saturday they have asked the State Bureau of Investigation who’s investigating the shooting to confirm that releasing the video will not undermine their investigation.

Wooten said once he gets that confirmation, the Pasquotank County will file a motion in court “hopefully Monday,” to have the footage released.

The video can only be released by a judge but several elected officials have called for it to be made public or released to Brown’s family.

The sheriff’s office also said on Saturday they asked for an internal investigation.

Chief Deputy Fogg said the focus on the internal affairs review will be to see if any disciplinary action needs to be taken, which Fogg said they will fully cooperate with the outside investigator and begin the process immediately.

SATURDAY NIGHT STORY

Sheriff Tommy Wooten said Saturday they want the body camera footage of the shooting death of Andrew Brown, Jr. to be made public.

Under North Carolina law, the releasing of the video can be done by a judge.

In a recorded statement posted Saturday afternoon, Sheriff Wooten and Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said they have asked the SBI to confirm that releasing the video will not undermine their investigation.

“Once I get that confirmation, our county will file a motion in court hopefully Monday to have the footage released,” Wooten said. “We understand that district attorney may also present his perspective on the issue to the judge.”

Posted by Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office on Saturday, April 24, 2021

Attorney General Josh Stein has also joined in on calls for the video to be released, saying in a statement that his office has reached out to District Attorney Andrew Womble to offer their assistance.

“I believe the bodycam video should be made available to the family and released publicly without undue delay,” Stein said. “Transparency is critically important in situations like this.”

Governor Roy Cooper also released a statement on Friday.

President Joe Biden is reportedly aware of what’s going and said he’d likely leave it to local authorities, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Chief Deputy Fogg said they met with Brown’s family, according to the video. Fogg said the sheriff’s office has asked the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association to identify and appoint an outside sheriff’s office to come here and do an internal affairs investigation of everyone involved in this incident.”

The focus on the internal affairs review will be to see if any disciplinary action needs to be taken, which Fogg said they will fully cooperate with the outside investigator and begin the process immediately.

The video came minutes after the Pasquotank NAACP chapter called for Sheriff Wooten’s resignation during a family press conference on Saturday afternoon.

“On behalf of the Pasquotank County branch [NAACP], we today are calling for his resignation,” chapter president Keith Rivers said. “Sheriff Wooten, you’ve had the opportunity. The district attorney, you had the opportunity right now to get it together. We owe this, you owe this, you are elected officials.”

Rivers said they would release a letter calling for Wooten’s resignation.

Request for Resignation of Sheriff Tommy Wooten II

Posted by Pasquotank County NAACP on Sunday, April 25, 2021

Elizabeth City officials and the family both held press conferences on Saturday at different times.

Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie. J Parker along with other officials gave a press conference on the shooting death of Andrew Brown, Jr. on Saturday morning.

“We have done that without any arrests at this point,” police chief Eddie M. Buffaloe, Jr. said on protests. “We have done that without any property damage in the city at this point.”

FRIDAY NIGHT STORY

Sheriff Tommy Wooten said this afternoon that seven deputies were put on administrative leave, and three others have since resigned, all over the deadly shooting of Andrew Brown, Jr.

Wooten is coming under increasing pressure to release body camera video of the shooting that happened during the execution of a search warrant Wednesday morning on Perry Street in Elizabeth City.

Elizabeth City council unanimously voted Friday afternoon to formally ask that the footage be released.

Under North Carolina law, law enforcement body camera footage can only be released by a court order.

At an emergency city council meeting, the city voted to send a letter to the sheriff, the district attorney, and the SBI asking the footage be released. If denied, the city okayed the next step of going before a judge to force the release.

WITN is joining other news organizations in filing a petition to have the video released, as well.

“There is absolutely nothing to hide. The video is not being released, we’re waiting on the district attorney,” said the sheriff.

Wooten said late Friday afternoon that in addition to the SBI investigating the shooting, he is bringing in another agency to do his internal investigation into what happened.

Police radio traffic said the man was shot in the back.

The shooting death of Brown has sparked two nights of protests in the city, amid calls that authorities release more information about how the man was shot by Pasquotank County deputies.

While WITN has asked for the release of 911 calls and radio traffic recordings from the Pasquotank County 911 Center, Broadcastify.com has posted what they say are the recordings from Wednesday morning.

“Deputy: Central, advise EMS that we have a male, 42 years of age, gunshot to the back. We do have a vital pulse at this time.”

Several minutes earlier, 911 alerted Elizabeth City police about the shooting.

“911: Can you respond to 421 Perry Street, we have shots fired. We have shots fired. EMS and fire is en route.”

WITN has received no response from Pasquotank County on our request for the recordings, which are public records under North Carolina law.

Sheriff Tommy Wooten has only said Brown was shot by his deputies during the execution of a search warrant of which Brown was the subject.

On Thursday, a neighbor told WITN that Brown was shot by a deputy as he was driving away.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON STORY

A neighbor says Andrew Brown Jr. was shot by a deputy as he was driving away.

Brown died after the 8:30 a.m. Wednesday shooting in Elizabeth City as Pasquotank County deputies were trying to serve a search warrant.

Demetria Williams lives on Perry Street and told WITN she saw multiple Pasquotank deputies shoot at him as he was trying to pull out of his driveway in his car.

“They started shooting, literally,” said Williams.

She said she remembers the deputies trying to resuscitate him, but it was too late.

“When they opened the door, he was slumped over already. I knew he was gone,” she said.

Another neighbor and long-time friend of Brown’s, Jean Ferebee, said her son woke her up after hearing multiple gunshots that Wednesday morning.

“My baby comes running into my room with fear in his face,” she said.

She wiped away tears as she remembered her neighbor across the street, father of multiple kids, and friend of 16 years.

“Where is the justification?” asked Ferebee. “Nothing is being justified to these people. Nothing is being justified.”

As they wait for answers, the State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.

Sheriff Tommy Wooten said the deputy, who he didn’t identify, has been placed on administrative leave.

Wooten wouldn’t give any details of what led up to the shooting but did confirm that the deputy’s body camera recorded what happened.

The NAACP Thursday morning called for an immediate review of the body camera footage.

The statement goes on to say, “Legislators MUST be held accountable to pass legislation to police the police.”

The NAACP said the 40-year-old Brown was the father of ten children.

Thursday afternoon, North Carolina Democrats said Brown’s death was a heartbreaking reminder just hours after the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict of the violence Black men in America face every day.

Elizabeth City Council held a special meeting Wednesday night to discuss the shooting and afterward dozens of people took to the streets to protest the shooting and ask for the release of more information.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT STORY

Crowds gathered Wednesday night in Elizabeth City in Pasquotank County after a man was fatally shot earlier in the day by a sheriff’s deputy.

The sheriff’s office says deputies were serving a warrant on Andrew Brown, Jr. at 421 Perry Street around 8:30 a.m. when the shooting happened.

Sheriff Tommy Wooten held a news conference earlier in the day but did not go into detail about what led to the shooting, only saying there would be a full and transparent investigation.

Pasquotank NAACP President Keith Rivers said, “I’m looking at this as the long game. I want our people in our community to understand the power of the vote, you don’t walk around and say my vote no longer counts, you get exactly what you didn’t vote for. And that’s what we have right now. So we have to make sure that people understand that we go and then when people are elected, we have to hold them accountable.”

Elizabeth City Council held a special meeting Wednesday night where Councilman Darius Horton said, “I’m hurt. Our community is hurt. Our community is torn apart, nobody wants to hear what anybody has to say. They just want the answers. So I’m just hoping that video footage for me, their video footage will speak volumes, that’s what I’m looking for. I want to see what happened because there’s no way. There’s no reason in my personal opinion that a warrant should end up in a man being dead.”

Shortly after the meeting protesters took to the streets as they seek answers as well.

Copyright 2021 WITN. All rights reserved.