By Jonathan Drake and Nathan Layne
Lawyers for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man killed by law enforcement in North Carolina, said an independent autopsy showed he died from a ‘kill shot’ to the back of his head, as the FBI on Tuesday opened a civil rights investigation of the shooting.
Brown, 42, was struck with four bullets to his right arm before the fatal shot penetrated the rear of his skull as he tried to drive away, the lawyers told a news conference in Elizabeth City, a riverfront community near the Virginia border where the shooting took place last Wednesday.
An official autopsy has yet to be released, though the death certificate had indicated Brown died of a gunshot to the head.
“It was a ‘kill’ shot to the back of the head,” said attorney Ben Crump, citing the private autopsy conducted by Brent Hall, a former medical examiner in Boone, North Carolina. “It went into the base of the neck, bottom of the skull and got lost in his brain. That was the cause of death.”
Shortly after the news conference, the FBI’s Charlotte Field Office announced that it has opened a federal civil rights investigation of the shooting, saying in a statement it would work with federal prosecutors in the Department of Justice to “determine whether federal laws were violated.”
Brown’s death led to six nights of protests in Elizabeth City and came one day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd in a trial that put a spotlight on police violence against Black people.
The Brown family’s lawyers have said deputies belonging to the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office continued firing their weapons after Brown drove his vehicle away from them, calling his death an “execution.” The lawyers have also accused officials of withholding evidence after being shown only 20 seconds of footage from one police body camera on Monday.
“An innocent man was killed by law enforcement. Overkill. He wasn’t fleeing. He was trying to run because he was scared for his life,” attorney Harry Daniels said on Tuesday.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten and Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg have said the deputies were trying to serve warrants on Brown stemming from a felony drug charge, and that Brown had a history of resisting arrest. They urged the public to reserve judgment until all evidence is reviewed by the State Bureau of Investigation, which is overseeing the probe of the shooting.
Wooten did not respond to a request for comment. His office said on Friday that seven sheriff’s deputies had been placed on administrative leave after the shooting.