A US prosecutor said Tuesday that law enforcers were justified in fatally shooting a Black man because he struck a deputy with his car, while also ignoring commands to show his hands and get out of the vehicle.
North Carolina District Attorney Andrew Womble said at a news conference that Andrew Brown Jr. used his car as a “deadly weapon,” causing Pasquotank County deputies to believe they had no other choice than to shoot.
Womble, who acknowledged Brown Jr. wasn’t armed, said the deputies will face no criminal charges after he reviewed a state investigation.
The death of Brown Jr. “while tragic, was justified” because his actions led the sheriff’s deputies “to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others,” Womble said.
County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II said the officers will keep their jobs but will be “disciplined and retrained.”
The district attorney said seven officers went to Brown Jr.’s home in Elizabeth City on April 21 to arrest the 42-year-old over alleged drug offenses.
Brown Jr. was in his car outside the home when the officers arrived. Deputies, with their weapons drawn, surrounded the car and asked the accused to get out of his car. However, Brown Jr. ignored those pleas and attempted to drive away, according to Womble.
“The decision to flee, which Brown made on his own, quickly escalated the situation from a show of force to an employment of force,” Womble said, adding that Brown had steered his vehicle in the direction of one of the deputies.
“The facts of this case clearly illustrate the officers who used deadly force on Andrew Brown Jr. did so reasonably, and only when a violent felon used a deadly weapon (his car) to place their lives in danger.”
“No officer will be criminally charged,” Womble added.
Over the course of 44 seconds, three officers fired 14 shots at the car. An autopsy revealed that two of those bullets hit Brown Jr. one of them fatally.
Attorneys for the family of the deceased decried what they called Womble’s “attempt to whitewash this unjustified killing” and called on the Justice Department to weigh in on the case.
“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,” attorney for the Brown family said in a statement.
Attorneys for the Brown family said authorities were trying to “whitewash” the unjustified killing
Police use of lethal force against Black Americans has come under increasing scrutiny since last year’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, sparking protests across the United States and around the world.
Last month, former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges relating to the murder of Floyd.
jsi/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)