The family of Andrew Brown, an African-American man who died after being shot by police in North Carolina last week, has labelled his death an “execution” after viewing body camera footage of the incident.
Mr Brown, a 42-year-old father of seven, died in Elizabeth City last Wednesday. Authorities said he had a history of drug offences and resisting arrest, and was shot while they attempted to execute search and arrest warrants.
According to witnesses, police fired on him repeatedly while he attempted to leave the scene in a car.
A probable cause affidavit, obtained by local media, showed police had been watching Mr Brown for more than a year, and suspected he was dealing in cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
An official autopsy has not been released yet, but today the Brown family’s lawyers held a media conference outside the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department to reveal the results of an autopsy they had commissioned privately.
That autopsy, conducted by Dr Brent Hall yesterday, found Mr Brown was shot five times. He suffered four non-fatal wounds to his right arm and a fifth injury to the back of his head. Dr Hall concluded the fifth bullet penetrated Mr Brown’s skull and brain, killing him.
“This was a fatal wound to the back of Mr Brown’s head as he was leaving the site, trying to evade being shot at by these particular law enforcement officers, who we believe did nothing but a straight out execution,” said Wayne Kendall, one of the lawyers.
“(It is) no doubt against police practice to shoot into a moving vehicle to a person who posed no threat whatsoever to the officers on the scene.”
“Yesterday, I said he was executed. This autopsy report showed me that was correct,” said Mr Brown’s son, Khalil Ferebee.
“Those three gunshots to the arm, they weren’t enough? That weren’t enough? 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?
“That s’s not right! That’s not right at all. Stuff has got to change.”
The family and its lawyers offered similarly scathing words yesterday after viewing limited body camera footage of the shooting – just 20 seconds of it, from a single officer’s camera. Under North Carolina law, that footage cannot be released to the public without a court order.
“My dad got executed just by trying to save his own life. The officers were not in no harm of him at all. It’s just messed up, how this happened,” said Mr Ferebee.
Another of the lawyers, Chantal Lassiter, described the footage in detail. She said Mr Brown’s hands were clearly on the steering wheel of his car, and he posed no threat to the officers.
“Let’s be clear, this was an execution,” said Ms Lassiter.
“Andrew Brown was in his driveway. The sheriff truck blocked him in his driveway so he could not exit.
“Andrew had his hands on the steering wheel. He was not reaching for anything. He wasn’t touching anything. He wasn’t throwing anything around. He had his hands firmly on the steering wheel.”
She said the 20 seconds started with police already running towards the vehicle and shooting, while yelling for Mr Brown to show them his hands.
“He still sat there in his vehicle with his hands on the steering wheel while being shot at,” said Ms Lassiter.
Eventually, he reversed out of the driveway, going around the truck in an effort to escape.
“There was no time in the 20 seconds we saw where he was threatening the officers in any kind of way. He was trying to evade being shot,” Ms Lassiter said, stressing she had watched the footage “numerous times” to make sure she had a “clear understanding”.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten and his Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said they had filed a motion in court to release the video to the public.
“Those who claim that the sheriff’s office has the ability to release the video either does not know North Carolina law, or they are purposely trying to inflame a tragic situation,” Deputy Fogg said.
Seven of the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.
In a TV interview on Friday night, Demetria Williams, who witnessed part of the incident, told CNN what she had seen.
“It was about 8:40am when I heard a shot. I woke up and ran, proceeded to run down the street, and when I got close to his house, I seen officers standing behind his car, as Andrew Brown is trying to flee away, to leave the scene, and they’re shooting,” said Ms Williams.
“As they started shooting, the car started going across the grass, and it proceeded to hit the tree. Came to rest at a tree. By then, he was dead, and he was slumped over when officers opened the car door.
“They snatched him out, and started doing chest compressions on him. After that, I guess they’d seen that they couldn’t revive him or bring him back, he was already gone, and then they put a sheet on him.
“It was inhumane. And it was sickening to me, because Andrew Brown was not violent. He never toted a gun. So to me, I think it was just, like, overkill. They murdered him.”
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, today called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the shooting.
“In the interest of justice and confidence in the judicial system, I believe a special prosecutor should handle all matters regarding the shooting in Pasquotank County,” Mr Cooper said.
“This would help assure the community and Mr Brown’s family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias.”
Meanwhile, the FBI has announced it’s investigating Mr Brown’s death for any federal civil rights violations.
“The FBI Charlotte Field Office has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the police involved shooting death of Andrew Brown,” the agency said in a statement.
“Agents will work closely with the US Attorney’s office for the eastern district of North Carolina and the civil rights division of the Department of Justice to determine whether federal laws were violated.”
Mr Brown’s death came the morning after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.
It has sparked days of protests in Elizabeth City, with Mayor Bettie Parker declaring an indefinite state of emergency due to the risk of “civil unrest”.
Ms Parker said protesters had been “very orderly” so far, without “any major problems”.