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Loved Ones Mourn Andrew Brown Jr.: 'He Kept A Smile On His Face'

Law enforcement officials look down from the rooftop as people gather near a press conference regarding the death of Andrew Brown Jr., in Elizabeth City, N.C.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
Law enforcement officials look down from the rooftop as people gather near a press conference regarding the death of Andrew Brown Jr., in Elizabeth City, N.C.

Friends and family of Andrew Brown Jr. say they will remember him as a devoted and loving father who wanted to give his children things he didn't always have.

"Andrew was a sweetheart," said Monique Gaddy, 52. "He dropped out of school, but he was very adamant about his children getting an education."

Gaddy, like many in Elizabeth City, a small community in coastal North Carolina, knew Brown since he was a small child.

Brown, 42, was shot and killed by Pasquotank County sheriff's deputies on April 21. The shooting is under investigation by the FBI and state authorities.

Brown will be remembered with a private funeral service Monday in Elizabeth City, where he grew up surrounded by a large extended family.

One of his aunts, 72-year-old Lillie Brown Clark, said "Andy Jr.," as she called him, was a playful child who loved to tease and entertain his cousins.

"He told all kinds of jokes — and some of his jokes came out of things he was doing himself, but he could turn it around and make it something funny," Brown Clark said.

Brown's mother died while he was still growing up, his aunt said, and a relative stepped in to help raise the children. When Brown had his own children, Brown Clark said he was devoted to all seven of them.

"It's because he knows the importance of parents — having lost both of his parents. ... He made sure they were loved, fed, bathed, dressed, at school on time, got their homework on time," Brown Clark said. "He demanded excellence in their education."

One of Brown's sons, 24-year-old Jharod Ferebee, said his dad was like a best friend — always hopeful and always willing to help.

"It seemed like no matter what he was going through, he kept a smile on his face," Ferebee said.

Explaining their decision to send a local version of a SWAT team to arrest Brown, Pasquotank County sheriff's officials have pointed to his criminal record. In a Facebook video, Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg cited felony drug charges and "a history of resisting arrest."

Authorities have not pointed to any specific history of violent actions by Brown. District Attorney Andrew Womble has saidthat on the day Brown was killed, his car made contact with deputies as he tried to avoid arrest, according to body camera footage recorded at the scene.

That account differs sharply from a description by family members who were allowed to view a brief portion of the footage last week. They say that video and an independent autopsy indicate that Brown was shot to death from behind in what one lawyer for the family described as an "execution."

Friends and family acknowledge Brown had a history of run-ins with the law, many of which were offenses such as drug-related misdemeanors. But they say they can't imagine how a warrant could end in his death.

"[He was] nonviolent, never tote a gun. That's why the community was so behind him, because they know him. He's a nonviolent person," said Daniel Bowser, 44.

Marching with protesters through Elizabeth City on the Friday after Brown's death, Bowser said he'd known Brown for about 30 years and was trying to make sense of what had happened to his friend.

"That was a nonviolent warrant that ended in death," he said.

In the aftermath of the shooting, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is calling for a special prosecutor, and activists are pressing state lawmakers to pass legislation requiring officials to promptly release body camera footage after fatal encounters with law enforcement.

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Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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