North Carolina sheriff’s deputies were justified in their fatal shooting of a Black man in April because the man ignored their commands and drove his car directly at one of them before they fired any shots, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Andrew Brown Jr.’s actions caused deputies to believe it was necessary to use deadly force, District Attorney Andrew Womble told a news conference. Womble said the first shot fired at Brown’s car went through the front windshield, not the back as was previously reported.
“I find that the facts of this case clearly illustrate the officers who used deadly force on Andrew Brown Jr. did so reasonably and only when a violent felon used a deadly weapon to put their lives in danger,” Womble said. He added that he found that “Brown’s actions and conduct were indeed dangerous by the time of the shooting. ... Brown posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers and others.
Womble also said that Brown’s decision to flee “quickly escalated from a show of force to an employment of force” by deputies.
The shooting on April 21 by deputies attempting to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants sparked protests over multiple weeks by demonstrators calling for the public release of body camera footage. While authorities have shown footage to Brown’s family, a judge refused to release the video publicly pending the state investigation. Womble, who showed portions of the video at the news conference, said Tuesday that he would not release the video.
The three deputies involved in the shooting — Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan and Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn — have been on leave since it happened. The sheriff’s office said Morgan is Black, while Meads and Lewellyn are white.
Four others who were at the scene were reinstated after the sheriff said they didn’t fire their weapons.
An independent autopsy released by the family found that Brown was hit by bullets five times, including once in the back of the head. Lawyers for Brown’s family who watched body camera footage say that it shows Brown was not armed and that he didn’t drive toward deputies or pose a threat to them. Womble has previously disagreed in court, saying that Brown struck deputies twice with his car before any shots were fired.
The sheriff has said his deputies weren’t injured.
Separately, the FBI has launched a civil rights probe of the shooting.