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FBI Starts Probe Into Death Of Andrew Brown Jr. In Elizabeth City

Attorneys Wayne Kendall and Ben Crump go over the independent autopsy.
Peyton Sickles
/
For WUNC
Attorney Ben Crump speaks to reporters at a briefing on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 in Elizabeth City, N.C. He and other attorneys representing the family of Andrew Brown Jr. released the findings of an independent autopsy report.

An independent autopsy shows that Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man killed by deputies in Pasquotank County, North Carolina last week, was shot five times, including once in the back of the head, according to a report released Tuesday by family attorneys.

A pathologist hired by Brown’s family examined his body on Sunday and noted four wounds to the right arm and one to the head, the report said. The state’s autopsy has not been released yet.

The family's lawyers also released a copy of the death certificate, which lists the cause of death as a “penetrating gunshot wound of the head.” It describes the death as a homicide.

Additionally, the FBI Charlotte Field Office confirmed Tuesday that it has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting death of Brown.

“Agents will work closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice to determine whether federal laws were violated,” a statement from an FBI spokesperson said. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further.”

Brown was shot last Wednesday by deputies serving drug-related search and arrest warrants in the eastern North Carolina town of Elizabeth City.

The autopsy results come a day after Brown's relatives were shown a redacted version of body camera footage of the shooting. Another family lawyer, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, who viewed a 20-second portion of the video, said Tuesday that officers opened fire on Brown while he had his hands on the steering wheel of a car. She said she lost count of the numerous gunshots while viewing the footage.

The Pasquotank Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney have not returned WUNC's requests for comment.

Brown's son, Khalil Ferebee, questioned why deputies had to shoot so many times at a man who, he said, posed no threat.

“Yesterday I said he was executed. This autopsy report shows me that was correct," he said at a news conference Tuesday. “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?”

The pathologist, North Carolina-based Dr. Brent Hall, noted a wound to the back of Brown’s head from an undetermined distance that penetrated his skull and brain. He said there was no exit wound.

Sickles_EC_BrownJrMarch14.jpg
Peyton Sickles
Protesters march in Elizabeth City on April 26, 2021.

That fatal shot caused Brown to crash his car into a tree, family attorneys said. They added that Pasquotank County sheriff's deputies continued to shoot at the car after it crashed.

Two other shots to Brown’s right arm penetrated the skin. Two others shots to the arm grazed him. The pathologist could not determine the distance from which they were fired.

“It was a kill shot to the back of the head,” attorney Ben Crump said.

Attorney Harry Daniels called it “an assassination,” while activist Bakari Sellers said it was “an execution.” Attorney’s doubled-down on their claim that deputies began shooting at Brown before he put his car in motion.

“You don’t have to be a Democrat or Republican to feel like an injustice was done,” said Sellers, a lawyer who is also a CNN commentator and a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. “The media has to gain control and demand transparency… If we want calm, if we want justice, that onus is not on this family.”

Daniels added that he hasn’t heard from the District Attorney since last Thursday.

The shooting prompted days of protests and calls for justice and transparency. The body camera footage has not been made public.

WUNC’s Cole del Charco, Celeste Gracia and Will Michaels contributed to this report.

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