A North Carolina Prosecutor Said Officers Were "Justified" In Shooting And Killing Andrew Brown
District Attorney Andrew Womble laid out a version of events that contradicts what Brown's family said they saw in videos.
A North Carolina district attorney declined to file charges against law enforcement officers involved in the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr., saying they were "justified" in shooting Brown in his car because he ignored officers' commands and attempted to drive away.
"Mr. Brown's death, while tragic, was justified," District Attorney Andrew Womble said at a press conference Tuesday announcing his decision, which he said was based on a North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation probe.
Hours after the district attorney's decision was announced, Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy S. Wooten announced the three deputies would keep their jobs, though they would face additional training and discipline.
"While the deputies did not break the law, we all wish things could have gone differently," Wooten said in a video posted on Facebook. "This should not have happened this way at all."
Officers were carrying out a search warrant on April 21 when they shot and killed Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, in his car outside his home.
But Womble laid out a version of the events on Tuesday that contradicts what Brown's family said they saw when viewing police bodycam footage.
According to Womble, Brown "rapidly backed his car away from officers" as they approached him, causing one of the deputies to be "pulled over the hood" of Brown's car.
Brown then started forward and drove toward that deputy, Womble said, leading the officers to believe it was "necessary to use deadly force" to stop him. Three of them fired a total of 14 shots, he said.
"The actions were consistent with the training and fully supported under the law in protecting their lives and this community," Womble said.
However, Brown's family, who were shown several videos of the incident, said he was sitting in his car in his driveway, his hands clearly visible on the steering wheel, as seven officers surrounded his car and shouted at him.
Chance Lynch, a family attorney, said they saw a shot fired before Brown put his car in reverse several feet away from the officers, and "at no point did we see Mr. Brown make contact with law enforcement."
Brown's family has described the shooting as an "execution" as he tried to drive away and said it was "in no way justified."
Womble, who previously rejected calls from Brown's family and Gov. Roy Cooper to allow an independent prosecutor to take over the case, said his office was not authorized to release the footage to the public.
He also said he had not spoken to the Brown family about his decision to not file criminal charges.
"Our original discussions immediately after this occurred with Mr. Brown's attorneys did not go well," he said.
Although the sheriff did not detail what kind of discipline the three deputies involved in the shooting would face, he said there were multiple missteps in how some of the deputies handled themselves.
For example, two deputies turned off their body cameras during the incident, Wooten said, calling the action "unacceptable."
The sheriff added he and the county would be asking a judge to allow them to release video of the incident, and that he would be releasing portions of the internal investigation.
Lynch, one of the Brown family lawyers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the prosecutor's findings.
Brown was killed one day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. His death sparked protests in North Carolina and around the country.