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Sheriff’s deputy kills a Black man in N.C.; few details released about circumstances

People gathered for a demonstration on Thursday in Elizabeth City, N.C., after a deputy shot to death Andrew Brown Jr., 42.
People gathered for a demonstration on Thursday in Elizabeth City, N.C., after a deputy shot to death Andrew Brown Jr., 42.Gerry Broome/Associated Press

A sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a Black man on Wednesday morning in Elizabeth City, N.C., while executing a search warrant, authorities said.

At a news conference, the Pasquotank County sheriff declined to release body camera footage or give many details of the case, including the nature of the warrant, how many shots were fired, or whether the man was armed, citing a state investigation. For hours, residents gathered at the scene demanding answers, and the City Council held an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening where several Black members expressed anguish over the shooting.

The authorities identified the man who was killed as Andrew Brown Jr., and said that he was fatally wounded in Elizabeth City, which is about 45 miles south of Norfolk, Va., and home to about 17,000 people. Brown was shot about 8:30 a.m. as a deputy was executing a search warrant, Tommy Wooten II, the Pasquotank County sheriff, said.

The shooting took place a day after a jury found a former Minneapolis police officer guilty of murder in the killing of George Floyd and as police violence against Black people has come under intense scrutiny across the country.

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Brown’s grandmother, Lydia Brown, said the family wanted answers. “Why did they have to shoot?” she said. “This grandson of mine never carried a gun. He didn’t even own a gun.”

An aunt, Clarissa Gibson, said Brown’s family “heard he was unarmed.”

“Why did they have to shoot him and to shoot to kill, at that?” Gibson said. “Why couldn’t they shoot him in the leg or something?”

Wooten declined to say how many shots were fired, saying he would wait for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to complete an investigation.

“We will be transparent and we will take the proper action based on the findings of that investigation,” Wooten said.

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The sheriff said that deputies were wearing body cameras that were active at the time of the shooting. He declined to say when the footage might be released.

The authorities have not identified the deputy who shot Brown. The deputy has been placed on administrative leave, Wooten said.

Andrew Womble, the Pasquotank County district attorney, said that after the shooting, he immediately asked the State Bureau of Investigation to take primary responsibility for the inquiry.

“What we are looking for at this time will be accurate answers and not fast answers,” Womble said at the news conference. “This will not be a rush to judgment. We’re going to wait for that investigation, as we’re duty-bound to do.”

Masha Rogers, a special agent in charge of the State Bureau of Investigation’s northeastern district, said the agency would turn over its findings to Womble, who will decide whether criminal charges are warranted.

Rogers said she would not answer questions about the shooting because “it’s very early in the investigation.”

Gibson, Brown’s aunt, described him as a warm person, about 40 years old, and the father of 10 children.

“He had this beautiful smile, and when he smiled he had these big dimples on the side of his face,” she said. “He was a handsome young man, very sweet man.”

For hours, residents of Elizabeth City gathered at the scene of the shooting, in a residential neighborhood. Some expressed frustration at the lack of information from the police.

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On Wednesday evening, the City Council held an emergency meeting to discuss the shooting. “We all just want answers and nobody is giving us anything,” Councilman Darius Horton said in a phone interview.

At the meeting, several Black members of the City Council expressed pain and anguish about the shooting and said residents were hurting.

As a Black man, “I feel like we are targeted,” said Councilman Gabriel Adkins, who was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt.

“I’m afraid as a Black man walking around in this city, driving my car down the road, trying to make sure that I’m driving the speed limit, trying to make sure that I wear my seat belt, trying to make sure that I do everything right, because I don’t want an officer to get behind me,” Adkins said.

The chief of the Elizabeth City Police Department, Eddie M. Buffaloe Jr., emphasized it was not involved in executing the search warrant and that its officers had responded only after receiving a call reporting that shots had been fired.

Mayor Bettie J. Parker said city employees had been allowed to leave work at 2 p.m. Wednesday out of “an abundance of caution.”

Several community leaders, speaking to a local news station, WAVY-TV 10, referred to high-profile police killings of Black people around the country.

“In the light of everything that’s going on in America with the shooting of unarmed Black men, I came down to assess the situation,” said Keith Rivers, a leader in the Pasquotank County NAACP. He said the lack of information from the police “creates and adds to an intense situation.”

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