The administrator for the estate of Andrew Brown, Jr. filed a federal lawsuit alleging that deputies violated Brown’s Fourth amendment rights by using excessive force while they were attempting to serve arrest and search warrants on Brown.
Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, was fatally shot on April 21 by Pasquotank County deputies in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Much of the incident was captured on body cameras worn by some of the deputies involved in the incident, however North Carolina law restricted its release.
A group of media outlets, including CNN, petitioned the court to release all videos of the incident captured by law enforcement. That petition was denied by the court. Separate petitions by the family, the city and the sheriff have also been filed.
The lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleges that deputies used “intentional and reckless disregard of the life and safety of Brown,” when they fired their weapons into his vehicle.
Attorneys for Brown’s estate held a press conference on the steps of the Federal Court House in Elizabeth City.
A group of protesters that have held daily protests since Brown’s death — 85 days in total — listened under the forgiving shade of a large tree.
“We stand in front of this federal courthouse because this is where we believe that finally Andrew Brown can get justice because he did not get justice in life and so far he hasn’t even gotten justice in death,” Attorney Bakari Sellers, a CNN contributor who also represents the family, said during the press conference.
Nearly a month after Brown’s death, Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble concluded that the shooting — which Brown’s family described as an execution — was justified, saying Brown “recklessly” drove at the officers on the scene while trying to flee arrest. During his presentation, Womble showed some of the videos captured by deputies.
On the same day, Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten said the three deputies who fired at Brown would be reinstated and retrained. One of them has since retired and the other two are back on the force.
“While the district attorney concluded that no criminal law was violated, this was a terrible and tragic outcome, and we could do better,” Wooten said, adding that two deputies did not turn on their body cameras during the incident.
“We didn’t feel as if we could get justice in the sheriff’s office. We didn’t feel as if we could get justice in the state court. So we had to come where we believe lady justice is blind and will have all things be equal.” Sellers said in announcing the lawsuit
In June, members of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP met with Justice Department officials to request that the department investigate the April shooting.
In a hand-delivered letter signed by thousands of community members, clergy and lawmakers, the chapter requested a pattern-or-practice civil rights investigation.
Anthony Coley, a Justice Department spokesperson, confirmed the meeting had taken place. The department has not announced whether it will open a pattern-or-practice investigation. To date, it has five such investigations pending.
The FBI had separately announced a federal civil rights investigation in April.
The estate lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $30 million dollars.
The attorney who represents the two counties that employ the sheriffs and deputies named in the lawsuit would not comment on the lawsuit.
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