© Reuters. Protesters march after an assistant sheriff shot and killed a black suspect in Elizabeth City
By Jonathan Drake and Nathan Layne
ELIZABETH CITY, NC (Reuters) – Family attorneys for Andrew Brown Jr., a black man killed by North Carolina law enforcement, said an independent autopsy showed he was taking a “kill shot” on the back of his head The FBI opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting on Tuesday.
Brown, 42, was hit with four bullets in the right arm before the fatal shot entered the back of the head while attempting to drive away. The attorneys reported a press conference held last Wednesday in Elizabeth City, a riverside community near the Virginia border where the shooting occurred.
An official autopsy has yet to be released, although the death certificate shows that Brown died from a shot in the head.
“It was a ‘kill’ shot in the back of the head,” said attorney Ben Crump, citing the private autopsy performed by Hall, a former medical examiner in Boone, North Carolina. “It went into the base of the neck, the underside of the skull, and got lost in his brain. That was the cause of death.”
Shortly after the press conference, the FBI’s Charlotte Field Office announced that it had opened an investigation into the federal civil rights shooting. In a statement, it said it would work with Justice Department prosecutors to “determine whether federal law has been violated”.
Brown’s death sparked six nights of protests in Elizabeth City and came a day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd in a trial that highlighted police violence against blacks.
The Brown family lawyers said the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office MPs continued to fire their guns after Brown drove his vehicle away from them and called his death an “execution”. The lawyers have also accused officials of withholding evidence after being shown just 20 seconds of footage from a police camera on Monday.
“An innocent man was killed by law enforcement. Overkill. He didn’t run away. He tried to run because he was afraid for his life,” said attorney Harry Daniels on Tuesday.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten and Vice Chairman Daniel Fogg said MPs are trying to serve arrest warrants against Brown on a drug abuse charge and Brown has resisted arrest in the past. They urged the public to hold on to the verdict until all evidence has been reviewed by the State Bureau of Investigation, which is overseeing the investigation into the shooting.
“This tragic incident quickly passed in less than 30 seconds and body cameras are shaky and sometimes difficult to decipher. They only tell part of the story,” said Wooten in a video posted on social media Monday.
Wooten did not respond to a request for comment. His office said Friday that seven sheriff MPs had been taken on administrative leave following the shooting.
Crump said Monday that there was evidence from at least nine cameras, including police cameras and dash cam videos, but that Pasquotank County attorney Michael Cox had chosen not to provide any further evidence to the family.
Cox did not respond to a request for comment.
Wooten said his office is seeking court approval to make the video available to the public, a necessary move under state law. A court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday to determine whether the body cam material can be made available to media organizations.
Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s son, said the independent autopsy and video evidence confirmed that his father was trying to “get away” when officers shot him. A family lawyer said Monday there were 7 to 8 officers on site.
“I said yesterday that he was executed. This autopsy report shows me that it was correct.”