Cops Killed a Black Man in North Carolina. Protesters Are Demanding Answers.

Andrew Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy early Wednesday.
April 22, 2021, 5:39pm
Genda 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. Brown was shot and killed Wednesday by a sheriff's deputy, who was attempting to execute a warrant.
Genda 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. Brown was shot and killed Wednesday by a sheriff's deputy, who was attempting to execute a warrant. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

Protests erupted in a small North Carolina town after a local sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a Black man Wednesday morning. 

Deputies were serving a search warrant in Elizabeth City when one of them killed Andrew Brown Jr., Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said in a press conference on Wednesday. He noted that there's body camera footage of the incident, but has provided few other details; he has declined to answer what the warrant was for, or how many times Brown was shot.   

Community members are now demanding greater transparency into the shooting, which witnesses told WAVY, an NBC affiliate in Portsmouth, Virginia, took place as Brown was trying to drive away from law enforcement. Brown, 42, was the father of 10, WAVY reported. 

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Hundreds of people peacefully gathered and marched in Elizabeth City Wednesday night, according to WAVY. Residents also came together at the scene where the shooting occurred, and later showed up to protest outside of an emergency Elizabeth City Council meeting. 

Community members plan to demonstrate at the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office Thursday if the agency doesn’t immediately release available body camera footage, according to WAVY.

“If the body cameras were on, that information needs to be disseminated as quickly as possible in order to make sure justice is served,” Keith Rivers, the president of the Pasquotank NAACP, told the outlet. 

Brown’s death is the second high-profile police killing to take place since a jury found ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd Tuesday. Columbus police fatally shot Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black 16-year-old, Tuesday night. 

A neighbor of Brown, Demetria Williams, told the Virginian-Pilot that she witnessed the killing. She said that officers fired into the front of Brown’s car as he tried to leave the scene, and then continued shooting into the back of his vehicle once he was driving. She said Brown hit a tree, and then police pulled his body from the car. 

As to whether Brown was armed, Daniel Bowser, one of his longtime friends, told the Raleigh News & Observer that he didn’t “mess with guns.” Williams also told the Virginian-Pilot that Brown didn’t have a weapon. And Brown’s son, Khalil Ferebee, said his father had never owned a gun, according to the Virginian-Pilot. 

Williams told the Virginian-Pilot that she counted 12 gun shell casings after the shooting, while neighbors told WAVY they heard six to eight shots.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident. The deputy responsible—an unnamed employee of the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office—is also now on administrative leave, Wooten said. 

The Bureau of Investigation will turn its findings over to Andrew Womble, the local district attorney, officials said during a press conference Wednesday. 

“What we are looking for at this time will be accurate answers and not fast answers,” Womble said. “We’re going to wait for the full and complete investigation performed by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and their agents. Then we will review that and make any determinations that we deem appropriate at that time."