Family files $31M lawsuit against Pasquotank authorities over Andrew Brown's shooting death
Posted July 13, 2021 12:57 p.m. EDT
Updated July 14, 2021 5:55 p.m. EDT
The lawsuit is seeking $31 million in compensatory and punitive damages and names Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten, seven of his deputies and Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie as defendants.
"This family needs justice," Lillie Brown Clark, the aunt of Andrew Brown Jr., who's the administrator of his estate and the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said at a news conference in Elizabeth City,
"What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong, and this situation was definitely wrong," said Khalil Ferebee, Brown's son. "My dad will get justice he deserves."
Brown, 42, was shot and killed on April 21 by deputies trying to arrest him on drug charges and serve a warrant to search his Elizabeth City home and car. Brown was trying to drive away when he was shot.
District Attorney Andrew Womble has cleared the three deputies who fired their weapons during the encounter of any wrongdoing. He said the shooting was justified because Brown used his car as a deadly weapon and put their lives in danger.
Attorneys representing Brown's family said federal courts have ruled that it's unconstitutional to shoot at people who are driving away.
"We don’t believe he was a threat at any time, and therefore, the shooting was unjustified," attorney Bakari Sellers said. "Most law enforcement will find what they did here in this county to be repulsive because you cannot shoot people who are going away from you."
The lawsuit alleges wrongful death, excessive force, assault and battery and "deliberate indifference" by the sheriffs in not enforcing their policies and procedures. Doughtie is included as a defendant because the charges against Brown initiated from a Dare County Sheriff's Office drug task force.
The suit maintains that the deputies violated Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office policy, which prohibits shooting at the occupants of moving vehicles. It also contends that the Dare County arrest warrants were invalid because they were never signed by a judge and that there was no need to send seven heavily-armed deputies to arrest Brown because authorities had no information that he had a history of violence against law enforcement.
Brown's family has seen only about 19 minutes of the more than two hours of video of the incident recorded by four body-worn cameras and one dashboard camera.
They dropped their effort to see the rest of the footage, saying Pasquotank County officials wanted to prevent Brown's family or attorneys from publicly discussing what the videos showed beyond what has already been released.
Attorney Harry Daniels said the federal lawsuit gives the attorneys subpoena power to obtain all of the video, as well as police reports and the investigative report compiled by the State Bureau of Investigation.
"This is the first step," attorney Bakari Sellers said. "We're going to get the truth and share it all."
A coalition of media organizations, including WRAL News' parent, Capitol Broadcasting Co., continues to press for the release of all of the video in the case, and a court hearing is set for next week.
A Superior Court judge ruled the media didn't have the right to obtain the video and also said he wouldn't consider releasing any of the video publicly until after the State Bureau of Investigation and the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office finished their investigations of the shooting. Both investigations are complete.