Elizabeth City community reacts to DA declining to charge deputies who killed Andrew Brown

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Posted at 5:00 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 23:36:58-04

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C.— After a month of marches calling for charges to be brought against the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office deputies who killed Andrew Brown Jr., District Attorney Andrew Womble announced Tuesday he would decline to file charges.

A small group of community members stood outside of the Pasquotank County Public Safety Building as Womble told media members that he concluded the fatal shooting was justified based upon the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation report.

“Today was expected to go the way that today went, but even still, it’s like, really? Really... this is it? This is how little you value the people that actually voted you into office?” said one female protester who declined to provide her name. “When it happens in your town, when it happens to your friends, your family member, etc., it’s a little bit harder. It’s a little bit different.”

The Pasquotank County branch of the NAACP has called for outside prosecution to step in and review the case. President Keith Rivers is among those who say they’re angry but not surprised by the DA's decision.

“The entire press conference was set up to defend the actions of the sheriff deputies, not to look at this through the lens of the victim, and the victim here is Andrew Brown,” said Rivers.

A point of contention for many community members is the sheriff department policy that deputies should move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of shooting, but Womble says the policy didn’t factor into whether Brown threatened the lives of deputies with his car, thus justifying the shooting.

Activists say they will continue to take to the streets nearly a month since the first protests began.

"We’ve been marching for 27 straight days, sometimes two a day. I think when we looked at it last, we had about over 175 miles that we’ve marched and that we’ve been arrested,” said community activist Kirk Rivers, who is also the brother of Keith Rivers.

People say they are still hopeful for the change they believe is long overdue.

The NAACP says it will continue to call for the sheriff’s deputies who shot Brown to be fired for violating the policy on the use of deadly force of a moving vehicle and register people to vote in wake of community disapproval of the DA and Sheriff Tommy Wooten.

In the meantime, many people in the community have been quietly watching the effects of the state investigation justifying the deputy-involved shooting.

Several community members did not want to speak on camera but told News 3 while they don’t believe Brown should have been killed, they can understand both sides with officers often making split second decisions. They also said hindsight is 20/20 and they’re still processing the latest developments.

The results of the state investigation into Brown’s shooting death sparked conversation between strangers in a parking lot.

“What happened to de-escalation? What happened to it?” said Elizabeth City resident Shirlean George to a man outside a grocery store.

George was outraged over the findings.

“We just want the truth; that’s all we want,” she said. “I believe in the law. I support officers of the law. My nephews are highway patrol. I support the police, but I do not support lies and I do not support murder.”

“Why couldn’t they shot his tires out?” said Gary Cooper of Elizabeth City in response to Womble saying deputies were justified in killing Brown after the 42-year-old was driving toward them in his car, causing them to open fire.

News 3 showed Cooper snippets of the four body camera videos Brown’s family was able to see last week. The DA played the footage for the first time since the shooting.

Womble said the incident lasted just 44 seconds before Brown was dead.

Cooper said he can understand the intense pressure law enforcement is under with having to make decisions in the heat of the moment but doesn’t think the incident had to end with a loss of life.

“They have to make split seconds. I believe that 100 percent,” Cooper said. “I just hated to see him get shot and killed. I don’t care if he was a drug dealer or a preacher down the street.”

Both Cooper and George believe the case needs further investigation from an outside source.

“No one was really there; you didn’t see it,” said Cooper. “We’re going by what we see on TV, and I have found in the past and believe you can’t always believe everything you see on TV.”

George finds it hard to believe that Womble was impartial in the case.

“If you’re going to be fair, do it fair,” she said. “He should have never been on this case, and justice will be served.”

The FBI has opened a civil rights probe into Brown’s killing. They would not comment on the ongoing investigation.