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Body Cam Shows Deputy Apparently Mistaking Isaiah Brown's Phone for Gun Before He Shot Him

Newsweek logo Newsweek 4/24/2021 Jason Lemon
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Isaiah Brown, an unarmed Black man, was shot at least 10 times by a sheriff's deputy in Spotsylvania County, Virginia on Wednesday after the officer apparently mistook his phone for a gun. In this photo, protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia march on the downtown mall with Black Lives Matter signs protesting against police violence and injustice on June 19, 2020. © Eze Amos/Getty Images Isaiah Brown, an unarmed Black man, was shot at least 10 times by a sheriff's deputy in Spotsylvania County, Virginia on Wednesday after the officer apparently mistook his phone for a gun. In this photo, protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia march on the downtown mall with Black Lives Matter signs protesting against police violence and injustice on June 19, 2020.

The Spotsylvania County sheriff's deputy who shot Isaiah Brown multiple times on Wednesday apparently mistook the 32-year-old Black man's phone for a gun, despite Brown previously telling a 911 dispatcher that he did not have a firearm—body camera footage and the audio of the 911 call show.

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Brown, who was unarmed, was shot by a white deputy early Wednesday morning after he called 911 about a domestic dispute with his brother. He is currently hospitalized in intensive care with 10 bullet wounds.

In the body camera video, which was released by the sheriff's office on Friday, the deputy—who has not been identified—can be heard giving orders to Brown.

"Show me your hands," he shouted. "Show me your hands. Show me your hands, now. Show me your hands. Drop the gun. He's got a gun to his head. Drop the gun now. Stop walking towards me. Stop walking towards me. Stop. Stop," the deputy said.

Brown was actually holding his phone, and the officer quickly began doing CPR.

Earlier, the same deputy had picked Brown up from a gas station after his car broke down. He then drove him to his house where he assured the man's siblings that he was not in trouble and just had trouble with his vehicle.

But shortly later, the deputy returned after Brown called 911.

"I'm about to kill my brother," Brown told the dispatcher.

"Don't kill your brother," the dispatcher responded, to which Brown said: "Alright."

"Somebody needs to come here real quick," Brown added, and told the dispatcher that he did not have a gun with him.

Shortly after that exchange, the deputy arrived and shot him at least 10 times.

The sheriff's office has said the deputy was placed on administrative leave. Virginia State Police told Newsweek on Friday that they were investigating the shooting.

State police spokesperson Sergeant Brent Coffey said that "the investigation remains ongoing at this time." He explained that "once state police completes its investigation, the criminal investigative file will be turned over to a special prosecutor, Fredericksburg Commonwealth's Attorney LaBravia Jenkins, for review and adjudication."

Sheriff Roger Harris said in a Friday video statement that he contacted the Virginia State Police to request the investigation to "ensure an impartial and transparent investigation." Harris said that a special prosecutor has been appointed "at the recommendation of the [Virginia] commonwealth attorney."

Newsweek reached out to the sheriff's office for further comment on Saturday, but did not immediately receive a response.

"The officer just started shooting at him for no reason. I didn't hear a warning shot. All I heard was 'Hands up!' one time. And all he had was his phone, so I know he put his hands up," Tazmon Brown, the victim's brother, previously told local NBC News affiliate WRC-TV.

Yolanda Brown, the victim's sister, told the TV channel: "I'm just still trying to figure out where he felt the threat at, to feel the need to shoot."

WARNING: Video shows the police shooting and other content that many viewers may find disturbing.

Following the release of the body camera footage and the audio of the 911 call, attorney David Haynes of The Cochran Firm in Washington, D.C, who is representing the Brown family, released a statement pointing out that Brown "clearly told dispatch that he did not have a weapon more than 90 seconds before the deputy arrived."

"The deputy in question made multiple, basic policing errors and violated established protocols. The deputy was situated nearly 50 feet from Isaiah, was never threatened and should not have discharged his weapon. The family is also requesting the release of the dispatch audio with the deputy leading up to the shooting. There was obviously a failure of communication between dispatch and the officer which led to this tragic event," Haynes added.

"Isaiah is now fighting for his life as a result of these completely avoidable errors by the deputy and dispatch," the lawyer said.

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