Attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., Wayne Kendall, left, and Ben Crump hold a news conference Tuesday, April 27, 2021 outside the Pasquotank County Public safety building in Elizabeth City.
Nancy Solomon: I'm Nancy Solomon, in for Tanzina Vega, and you're listening to The Takeaway. Less than 24 hours after a jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd, officers killed at least six people around the country. Yesterday, we talked about Ma'Khia Bryant, who was fatally shot by police in Columbus, Ohio.
Today, we shine a light on Elizabeth City, North Carolina. That's where 42-year-old Andrew Brown Jr was shot and killed when deputies from the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Department opened fire last Wednesday morning. Details of what exactly happened are unclear, with the Sheriff's Department releasing very little information. Yesterday, the city was placed under a state of emergency in anticipation of the family being shown body camera footage of the shooting. We spoke to Andrew Carter, reporter at the News and Observer in Raleigh on Tuesday morning. Andrew, thanks for joining us.
Andrew Carter: Thank you so much for having me.
Nancy Solomon: Let's start about what we know about the shooting and what happened.
Andrew Carter: Really, it's the story of what we don't know at this point. We know that the Pasquotank Sheriff's Department showed up at Andrew Brown Jr.'s house, attempted to serve him multiple warrants. One was an arrest warrant. One was a search warrant to search where he was living and then there was obviously a shooting, and Brown wound up dead. We do not know how many shots were fired.
We don't know the manner in which Brown was struck and hit by bullets. We don't know the reasoning behind the Sheriff's deputies' use of such lethal force. That's really been the central reason why there's been so much frustration within the community, is that this happened almost a week ago, six days ago now, and we still just do not have answers, and there is body camera footage.
The police has chosen not to release at this point. That part of it gets a little bit complicated due to different North Carolina laws sort of precluding how that footage is released, but unlike some of these other cases involving excessive use of force by police such as George Floyd case, where we had raw video produced by a witness, we don't really have that dynamic here in this particular case, and so it's created just a lot of unknowns about what exactly took place.
Nancy Solomon: What was the Brown's family able to see yesterday in the excerpt of the video?
Andrew Carter: The family saw 20 seconds, which their attorneys--
Nancy Solomon: It's not very much.
Andrew Carter: No, it's not very much. Their attorneys expressed some frustration about that yesterday during a press conference. One of the family's attorneys basically said this was an execution, plain and simple. They claim that the video showed that Andrew Brown's hands were on the steering wheel. They claimed that it showed that deputies basically tried to rush to his vehicle where he was with guns out, guns drawn, and pretty much indicated that Brown more or less might have panicked and attempted to flee the scene.
At the scene there, you can see still these tire tracks through this grassy lot where he attempted to drive through, and there was mud splattered on the side of his house, indicating that his tires were kicking up mud as he attempted to leave and then basically he made it to across the street, and he crashed into a tree in his neighbor's yard.
One witness that I spoke to last week claimed that after the first shot, she came outside, and she saw the deputies "just unloaded on him."
She claimed to have counted 14 shell casings out in the street. Could have been less than that, maybe she miscounted. It could have been more, but again, there's just so many unknowns with this, and we don't know, and even that 20-second clip that the family saw, it really created more questions than answers at this point, normally serve to inflame tension within the community.
Nancy Solomon: Andrew Carter is a reporter at the News and Observer in Raleigh. Andrew, thanks so much for joining us.
Andrew Carter: Thank you so much for having me.
Nancy Solomon: Now, we'll be speaking with City Councilman Darius Horton about what's happening in his community since this killing. Councilman, thanks for joining us.
Darius Horton: Thank you so much for having us.
Nancy Solomon: For those of us who aren't familiar, give us a brief description of Elizabeth City and what the community is like.
Darius Horton: Well, we're a small-knit community, just a little over 20,000 persons located right here near the Outer Banks. We pride ourselves in being a Harbor of Hospitality, is our slogan. We're just a small-knit community. Pretty much everyone knows everyone. We do have three higher learning education facilities, and we have a National Coast Guard Base here. It's a great place to live.
Nancy Solomon: Now, let's talk about Andrew Brown. Have you had a chance to view the body cam footage in this case? And if so, what were you able to see?
Darius Horton: We have not had a chance to view the body camera in this incident. The Local Sheriff has deemed along with the County Attorney and the District Attorney that that needs to only be released to the public, it requires a court order. The only persons that have seen it, of course, would be the law enforcement officials, the attorney, and yesterday, his immediate family, very immediate, were able to see a redacted 20-second clip.
Nancy Solomon: You're a member of course of the City Council, the majority of the city council members and the mayor of Elizabeth City are African-American, have there been conversations in City Government about the danger facing people of color at the hands of the police?
Darius Horton: Oh, absolutely, and really, we began these conversations before this incident happened. We actually have an African-American police chief, and of course, the way that we are governed here or policed here is of course inside the city limits, which I represent, we have a Police Department and then the [unintelligible 00:06:21], of course, the Sheriff oversees that.
This incident happened inside the city limits, which is the police's jurisdiction. However, it was a warrant that was being served by the County Sheriff. There was no police presence until after the incident transpired. It is problematic because out of courtesy, when a warrant is served inside the city limits, the Police Department is involved or at least notified. The Sheriff does have jurisdiction over the entire county, so he doesn't have to, but normally, as a rule of thumb, that's how that would take place, but in this incident, it did not take place.
Nancy Solomon: Has there been historically a different kind of relationship that folks in Elizabeth City have with the Sheriff's Department versus their own local Police Department?
Darius Horton: Well, historically, we've always gotten along. I've been elected I think now close to eight, nine years, I've never heard of police brutality or anything like that on any major level. This is kind of new for the city, and it's kind of sad, in my opinion, as an elected official, how the county is handling this matter with no transparency. Yesterday, the family was given a time to come to view the video and then they were said, "No, you can't come. We need to redact the officers' names," but from what the family told me, when they went and viewed the video, Mr. Brown was not redacted.
It's just a very messy, slippery slope as it relates to this, and there were eight body cameras, and only one was showed, and it was showed for 20 seconds, and they're saying that they showed the pertinent part of the video, but do they have the right to determine what's pertinent and what's not pertinent? We're just in a very slippery slope now here in Elizabeth City.
Nancy Solomon: Darius Horton is a City Councilman for Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Councilman, thanks again so much for speaking with us.
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