The newly released autopsy report from an official medical examiner in North Carolina not only contradicts the “false” police narrative surrounding the deadly shooting of a Black man last month but also supports claims from his family that he was “executed,” civil rights lawyers representing his family said Thursday.
The North Carolina State Medical Examiner’s Officer determined in a report released Thursday that Andrew Brown Jr. died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head while driving away from police officers in Elizabeth City on April 21 — the same conclusion previously reached following an independent autopsy commissioned by the attorneys representing his family.
And though Brown’s family attorneys didn’t say so, the state autopsy’s findings also seemingly demonstrate the orchestration of a massive coverup that involved levels of law enforcement from the police on up to Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble’s office and possibly even the judge presiding over the case.
“The autopsy results prove what we’ve always known to be true: Pasquotank County deputies executed Andrew Brown Jr. with a kill shot to the back of the head. The false narrative that DA Womble has attempted to weave is completely discredited by this autopsy report,” civil rights attorneys Ben Crump, Bakari Sellers, Harry Daniels and Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said in a statement e-mailed to NewsOne.
Family lawyers contend Brown was driving away from Pasquotank County Sheriff’s deputies trying to serve him a warrant and did not pose a mortal threat when they opened fire. They also said shooting at a moving vehicle violates state law. They claim Brown was only holding his car’s steering wheel when he was struck by the “kill shot” in the back of his head.
It was nearly a week after the shooting when Womble claimed police only fired their guns after Brown, 42, struck them with his car — a narrative that was missing from initial law enforcement accounts.
The attorneys representing Brown’s family specifically called out Womble’s office — which has maintained an air of secrecy from Day 1 — for not notifying them of the medical examiner’s autopsy report.
“While we are not surprised by the findings, we are both astounded and disgusted that the authorities in this case didn’t even have the decency to share these results with the family – we were alerted of their release by the media,” the attorneys said in their statement Thursday. “Every single opportunity DA Womble has had to do the right thing, he’s taken the route of cowardice and deceit. Shame on him.”
Womble, during a hearing last month, said his office would not pursue any criminal charges against the officer involved, called the shooting “justified” and blamed Brown for his own death.
“While tragic, the shooting of Mr. Brown was justified due to his actions,” Womble said.
Similar to the medical examiner’s findings, Womble in that instance also did not communicate the findings from his office’s investigation with Brown’s family or their attorneys before he held a press conference to make them public.
Brown’s family and their lawyers have been demanding in vain transparency from law enforcement for nearly two months now, with bodycam video footage being the central point of dispute.
Womble’s office reluctantly released a 20-second “snippet” of the bodycam on April 26. Bakari Sellers, who is representing Brown’s family, said those viewing the video were shown “disrespect.” He said Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said he was “not fucking going to be bullied” into showing the entire video.
Cherry-Lassiter said the 20-second video showed the police were the ones who went on the offensive without justifiable provocation and gave conflicting orders to Brown.
“He was not threatening them in any kind of fashion,” she added.
Brown’s son said after viewing the footage that his father was “executed.”
To make matters worse for Brown’s family and their lawyers, the judge who blocked the bodycam footage from being made public has previously engaged in social media behavior that could be construed as being sympathetic to the police. That includes posting kind words about George Zimmerman, the acquitted vigilante killer of an unarmed Black teenager in Florida, as well as a photo of the so-called “thin blue line,” a pro-police image purportedly representing the thin line between life and death that officers face on the job.
Still, in the face of adversity, the attorneys representing Brown’s family said they remain optimistic and suggested this case is far from over.
“Despite law enforcement’s and the district attorney’s best efforts to hide the facts in this case, and paint Andrew as a villain, we are confident that the truth will be revealed and justice will prevail. We will continue to demand release of video footage from the day Andrew was killed, and we won’t stop fighting for transparency and accountability from law enforcement and the district attorney,” they concluded their statement. “From what we’ve seen thus far from both parties, we have a long way to go.”