3 deputies return to work after DA decides to not file charges in killing of Andrew Brown Jr.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021
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ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The three deputies who shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr. will return to work Wednesday after learning Tuesday that they will not face any criminal charges for the fatal shooting.

Daniel Meads, Robert Morgan and Aaron Lewellyn are the three deputies who fired their weapons during a 44 second interaction with Brown on April 22.

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy S. Wooten II said the three deputies will be disciplined and retrained.

"This was a terrible and tragic outcome. And we could do better," Wooten said. "Every person in every job makes decisions. In law enforcement, we have a higher responsibility to do everything we can to make the best decision."

"I want to say something to the family of Andrew Brown Jr.," Wooten said. "This should not have happened this way at all. While the deputies did not break the law, we all wish things could have gone differently, much differently. I continue to pray for them and hope they will find peace."

No criminal charges

District Attorney Andrew Womble said Tuesday that the three deputies were justified in their actions and would not face criminal charges.

"Mr. Brown's death, while tragic, was justified, because Mr. Brown's actions caused three deputies with the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others," Womble said before showing the body camera video to the public for the first time.

Brown's family, who had already seen the video in question, previously said the video showed Brown, afraid for his life, backing away and then driving off in an attempt to escape being killed.

The deputies were at his home serving arrest and search warrants following an investigation that authorities said proved Brown was selling "crack" cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

On Tuesday, Womble showed four different body camera videos showing the 44 second interaction between deputies and Brown.

WARNING: The contents of this video may be disturbing.

The video shows the deputies jumping out of the back of their truck, running at Brown's vehicle, cursing and pointing guns at him.

Brown begins reversing his vehicle away from deputies and toward his home. Before reaching his home, Brown begins driving forward--toward the deputies who had surrounded his vehicle.

As Brown's car begins going forward, one deputy is forced to sidestep the vehicle to avoid being hit.

"Brown's precise speed in attempting to flee and striking deputy Lundsford is uncertain. But that he drove recklessly and endangered the officers, is not uncertain. Therefore I find that Brown's actions and conduct were indeed dangerous by the time of the shooting," Womble said.

A lot of the disagreement between family and the DA lies with Brown's intent during that short exchange with law enforcement. Brown's family and attorneys have said the video shows Brown backing away from and then turning away from the deputy in an effort to drive off.

Womble said in that video Brown hits one deputy twice. Although he admits he has no evidence that any deputy was injured during the incident.

"I cannot clarify whether there were any injuries sustained. I do not know that," Womble said.

WATCH: District Attorney's opening remarks during Tuesday press conference

The reaction

The police shooting, described as an "execution" by Brown's family members, has drawn national attention to the small, majority Black city in the state's rural northeastern corner. Protesters and civil rights leaders have demanded full release of the video.

The ACLU of NC said in a statement on Tuesday that the DA's ruling is "a sign that the system is working as it was designed to."

"It should not come as a surprise that the criminal legal system has upheld the legitimacy of another police murder of a Black person," the statement said. "Communities deserve justice and accountability, but history shows justice for people of color is rare in a system that was built upon slavery and has been modified over time to control and limit the lives of those who are not white."

NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman reacts:

Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday doubled down on his recommendation for a special prosecutor to handle the case.

"Public confidence would have been better served with a special prosecutor and by quickly making public the incident footage," he said in a statement.

Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement that he continues to support the full release of the body camera footage to the public.

"Andrew Brown Jr.'s family and many people in Elizabeth City and beyond continue to grieve, and I extend my deepest sympathy to them. I continue to believe it is critically important to release the full body camera footage to the public. The trust in our criminal justice system that is currently fractured will only be more difficult to repair without complete transparency. Now that the investigation has concluded, it is imperative that the court authorize the release of the full video to the public immediately."

ABC News reports hundreds marched Tuesday afternoon and evening in Elizabeth City.

Alkila Seymore, an Elizabeth City mother, was among those marching.

"I'm frustrated, there's got to be justice. We're not getting it so we're going to keep marching, said Seymore. "It's just heartbreaking because I never thought it would happen in my city and I have a son, 9 years old, asking me questions that I can't answer."

Satoria Johnson, another mother, is another Elizabeth City native who said she marched for a future community still growing up.

"It was a very emotional moment to have to talk to children about possibly maybe getting killed by a police officer when they looking at them to protect them," said Johnson. "We have to have that conversation with our kids, all ages, we have to have that conversation--it's sad but something we have to do."

Brown's son Jha'rod Ferebee said last week after viewing the body camera video that he thought the shooting never should have happened.

"My father did not deserve to die at all," Ferebee said. "He did not deserve to get killed. In any way shape or form, he did not pose any threat at all. Come court, there's no way that this could be justified. There's no way possible."

Attorneys for the family released the following statement on Tuesday:

"Andrew Brown Jr., his grieving family, and this community deserve answers. And they received anything but from D.A. Womble's attempt to whitewash this unjustified killing. To say this shooting was justified, despite the known facts, is both an insult and a slap in the face to Andrew's family, the Elizabeth City community, and to rational people everywhere. Not only was the car moving away from officers, but four of them did not fire their weapons - clearly they did not feel that their lives were endangered. And the bottom line is that Andrew was killed by a shot to the back of the head. Interestingly, none of these issues were appropriately addressed in today's press conference.

"We demand that the court release the full video and State Bureau of Investigation report that will help shed some much needed daylight on this case and bring a small measure of justice to this family and this community. Because we certainly got neither transparency nor justice today. We request that the Federal Department of Justice intervene immediately."

On Wednesday, some called for boycotts of Elizabeth City businesses.

The Brown family said some people will protest in Elizabeth City by avoiding shops and restaurants.

"Keep your money or support businesses that support this cause," Brown Clark told ABC11. "I would like to see this every Wednesday, every day and I would like to see it in all seven counties that Andrew Womble is DA for especially in those businesses that have his name on them."

Meanwhile on Wednesday, family attorney Chantal Cherry-Lassiter continued demanding the full release of video to the family.

"We'd also like to see the SBI report so that the family can start piecing together what happened to Andrew Brown Jr.," she said.