ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (NewsNation Now) — A North Carolina district attorney said the fatal shooting of a Black man, Andrew Brown Jr., by deputies was “justified” and that bodycam footage would not be publicly released.
Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble made the announcement Tuesday after reviewing the results of a State Bureau of Investigation probe of the fatal shooting of Brown in April.
“While tragic, Brown’s death was justified because his actions caused three deputies to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others,” Womble said.
Womble said the three deputies that fired their weapons won’t face charges. The three deputies involved in the shooting — Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan and Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn — have been on leave since it happened. The sheriff’s office said Morgan is Black, while Meads and Lewellyn are white.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II said in a video statement Tuesday afternoon that the deputies will keep their jobs but will be “disciplined and retrained.”
“I find that 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 to put their lives in danger,” Womble said, referring to Brown’s car. He added that he found that “Brown’s actions and conduct were indeed dangerous by the time of the shooting. … Brown posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers and others.”
Brown’s family released a statement calling Womble’s decision “both an insult and a slap in the face.” Attorneys for the family who watched body camera footage have said repeatedly that he was trying to drive away from deputies serving drug-related warrants and posed no threat.
Deputies attempting to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants shot and killed Brown outside his Elizabeth City home on April 21. Three deputies involved in the shooting remain on leave, while four others who were at the scene were reinstated after the sheriff said they didn’t fire their weapons.
The prosecutor said he would not release bodycam video of the confrontation between Brown and the law enforcement officers, but he played portions of the video during the news conference that were broadcast by multiple news outlets. Brown ignored deputies’ commands to stop and began to drive his car directly at one of the officers, Womble told a news conference. He said the first shot fired at Brown’s car went through the front windshield, not the back as was previously reported.
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An independent autopsy released by the family found that Brown was hit by bullets five times, including once in the back of the head. Lawyers for Brown’s family who watched body camera footage say that it shows Brown was not armed and that he didn’t drive toward deputies or pose a threat to them. Womble has previously disagreed in court, saying that Brown struck deputies twice with his car before any shots were fired.
The sheriff has said his deputies weren’t injured.
The shooting sparked protests over multiple weeks by demonstrators calling for the public release of body camera footage. While authorities have shown the footage to Brown’s family, a judge refused to release the video publicly pending the state investigation.
Separately, the FBI has launched a civil rights probe of the shooting.
Womble resisted calls from the state’s Democratic governor and Brown’s family to let an independent prosecutor take over. Under state law, Womble would have to agree to step aside.
This story is developing. Refresh for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report