FBI opens civil rights investigation into Andrew Brown Jr. shooting

The FBI's Charlotte field office has officially opened an inquiry to determine whether civil rights were violated during the fatal shooting.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has announced an official investigation into the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. by North Carolina police officers while trying to serve an arrest warrant. Eyewitnesses say Brown, who was in the driveway of his home, was driving away from police when he was shot, per the New York Times.

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CNBC reports the family was allowed to view 20 seconds of the footage recorded leading up to their loved one’s death. The 42-year-old was shot five times. According to the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office, seven of the deputies involved in the arrest were placed on paid leave.

“The FBI Charlotte Field Office has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the police-involved shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr.,” an FBI spokesman said according to the report. “Agents will work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice to determine whether federal laws were violated.”

Andrew Brown Jr. thegrio.com
Glenda Brown Thomas displays a photo of her nephew, Andrew Brown Jr., on her cell phone at her home in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Thursday, April 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)”

In the short clip they were allowed to view, his family says Brown Jr. showed no threat to law enforcement.

“There was no time in the 20 seconds that we saw where he was threatening the officers in any kind of way,” Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, an attorney, said at a press conference after watching the video, according to CNBC.

As theGrio reported, an autopsy found four of the five shots wounded Brown’s right arm, and one entered the head. The autopsy was conducted by a pathologist hired by Brown’s family. Their North Carolina-based pathologist, Dr. Brent Hall, noted a wound to the back of Brown’s head from an undetermined distance that penetrated his skull and brain.

Hall said there was no exit wound. Two shots to Brown’s right arm penetrated the skin. Two other shots to the arm grazed him but the pathologist could not determine the distance from which they were fired.

“Yesterday I said he was executed. This autopsy report shows me that was correct,” Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s son, said on Tuesday at a news conference. “It’s obvious he was trying to get away. It’s obvious. And they’re going to shoot him in the back of the head?”

Read More: NC governor calls for release of bodycam video in Andrew Brown killing

An official autopsy report has yet to be released by the state. Wednesday’s court hearing on the video will consider petitions to release the footage, including filings by a media coalition and by a county attorney on behalf of the sheriff. A North Carolina law that took effect in 2016 allows law enforcement agencies to show body camera video privately to a victim’s family but generally requires a court to approve any public release.

It’s not clear how soon a judge could rule, or how quickly the video would be released if the release is approved. In similar cases, it has sometimes taken weeks for the full legal process to play out.

Lawyers representing the family called it a “kill shot,” according to Reuters.

“It was a ‘kill’ shot to the back of the head,” said attorney Ben Crump, citing the private autopsy. “It went into the base of the neck, bottom of the skull and got lost in his brain. That was the cause of death.”

Attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., Wayne Kendall, left, and Ben Crump hold a news conference Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

Per theGrio, the city of Elizabeth City, N.C. has prepared for unrest as more details are released. Mayor Bettie Parker declared a state of emergency ahead of the video release.

“City officials realize there may potentially be a period of civil unrest within the City following the public release of that footage,” she said, according to NPR.

Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said his office worked to attempt to set up a private viewing of the video footage for the family “immediately” once the request was issued Sunday. He continued by saying “The law also allows us to blur some faces on the video and that process takes time.”

This article contains additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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