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Andrew Brown Jr. shooting: Witnesses describe chaotic scene

CNN logo CNN 4/23/2021 By Nick Valencia, Dianne Gallagher, Brian Todd, Devon M. Sayers and Gregory Lemos, CNN
a group of people standing in a parking lot: Law enforcement officers watch as a woman records the scene on her cell phone. © Chris Day/The Daily Advance/AP Law enforcement officers watch as a woman records the scene on her cell phone.

Neighbors on Thursday described a chaotic scene of North Carolina deputies trying to serve a warrant, a car pulling away and shots fired -- leaving one man dead.

The shooting took place Wednesday morning in a working-class neighborhood of Elizabeth City in the northeastern corner of the state.

The Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office said Thursday in a video statement that its special operations and tactical team was attempting to serve an arrest warrant on Andrew Brown Jr. when the shooting occurred.

"Our deputies attempted to serve the arrest warrant. They fired the shots. They've been put on administrative leave until we know all the facts," Sheriff Tommy Wooten said.

Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said the arrest warrant was for felony drug charges, and that Brown had a history of resisting arrest. CNN could not immediately verify any previous resisting arrest charges against Brown, 42.

Deputies from another agency assisted in serving the warrant, Fogg said.

Neighbors told CNN that deputies opened fire on the vehicle that Brown was driving, though it was unclear if the deputies started to fire before or after the car was in motion.

Demetria Williams, who lives just down the road, said she initially heard one shot, and then ran outside to look.

"By the time I got (outside), they was standing behind his car. He was trying to get away," Williams said.

"And they stood behind him," said Williams. "I couldn't tell you what, who shot him. I couldn't do that. But one of the officers or maybe a couple shot him."

Williams said Brown was driving, causing mud to splatter on the side of a home. A neighbor who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity gave the same account. The mud on the home and a deep tire mark were still visible on Thursday when CNN visited.

"It is a horrible thing to witness," the neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity told CNN. She said she heard a shot, went to get her phone, and then heard more gunshots, describing them as "rapid fire." Neither this neighbor nor Williams said how much time elapsed between the first shot and the rest.

Both Williams and the witness who asked for anonymity said the vehicle, after driving through an open lot, crossed another street, struck a tree and came to rest. Two neighbors tell CNN that deputies pulled Brown out and attempted lifesaving medical intervention.

A man who lives at the home where the vehicle came to rest said authorities had recovered a bullet from his home. The entry point just to the right of his front door was still visible.

Fogg said at issue is whether the deputies had reason to believe Brown's actions put them at risk of serious injury or death.

Wooten said, "If evidence shows that any of my deputies violated the law or policies, they will be held accountable."

Thursday brought a second day of protests. A few hundred people were marching through the streets of the city, passing the sheriff's office and the site of the shooting before heading toward a business area.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the sheriff office declined to comment further and said the matter was being investigated by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).

Officials with the agency said in a statement that investigators are working quickly and thoroughly.

"We understand the need for transparency and will release what information we can when we're able to release it," SBI officials said.

While authorities have not given information on what led up to the incident, and specifically, whether Brown was armed, his family says he "never carried a gun."

"That's my favorite nephew. He never carried a gun. He didn't own a gun," Pete Brown told CNN.

The deputy involved in the shooting is on leave, according to the sheriff.

Wooten told reporters at a Wednesday afternoon news conference that deputies wore body cameras and they were activated. The footage has not been released.

The SBI said in its statement that it takes a court order in North Carolina to get body camera footage released.

"Any requests as it relates to the release of such video should be directed to the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office or the District Attorney's Office," the statement said.

Andrew Womble, district attorney for the First Prosecutorial District, and Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said, "The law does allow a private viewing by the family of Mr. Brown (and) we are working with their attorney to arrange that."

The North Carolina NAACP issued a statement calling for an "immediate review of the body cameras," as well as a thorough investigation of the sheriff's department.

"Here we are again outraged to hear of yet another Black man dead, allegedly at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve. The murder of Andrew Brown in Elizabeth City, NC, Black man ... and a father of 10 on the morning after the guilty on every count verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin screams for increased scrutiny of the policing system," officials with the NC NAACP said, adding they "will not stand idly by and watch North Carolina become another Minnesota."

Brown's aunt Clarissa Gibson said she initially heard about the shooting on the news before finding out it was in fact her nephew who was shot and killed. Gibson told CNN on Wednesday she believes Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting because he didn't typically carry a gun.

Brown's former girlfriend Patrice Revelle, who said she shares five children with Brown, told CNN that "Drew didn't own a gun. He didn't carry a gun."

Revelle, who was not present at the time of the shooting, was adamant Brown would not have been armed.

Wooten said he will not comment on the number of shots fired because an investigation will reveal those details.

Gov. Roy Cooper told CNN in a statement that he "is aware of the incident and believes that there should be a full investigation."

"We must continue to work toward accountability and justice in communities across our state," the governor said in a statement.

The City Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the shooting but the city manager said he was not going to impose a curfew.

After the meeting, several members spoke to an angry crowd gathered outside.

Council member Darius Horton drew cheers when he told the protesters that he was calling for authorities to release immediately the deputy's body camera footage.

"I do believe in the coming days or coming hours that footage must be released," he told CNN. "Because that's the only way these people are going to calm down.

Elizabeth City has about 18,000 residents and is just west of North Carolina's Outer Banks and about a 45-mile drive south of Norfolk, Virginia.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Andrew Brown's age. He was 42.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Hundreds of people demonstrated on Thursday over the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.

Hundreds of people demonstrated on Thursday over the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.
© Gerry Broome/AP
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