Andrew Brown Jr.’s loved ones will say a final goodbye Monday as they continue to question whether North Carolina sheriff’s deputies needed to use deadly force during an arrest nearly two weeks ago.
The Rev. Al Sharpton is set to eulogize the 42-year-old Black man during funeral services at the Fountain of Life Church, just three miles away from where Brown was killed in Elizabeth City on April 21.
A viewing and memorial service on Sunday drew hundreds of mourners.
“This problem will not go away without this nation focusing on the real need for police reform,” Sharpton told viewers Sunday on his MSNBC show “Politics Nation.”
“We need to stop having funerals and start having change and celebrate everybody’s life equally. And celebrate police and realize they uphold the law, they’re not above the law.”
Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies sought to serve a warrant for Brown’s arrest on felony drug charges two weeks ago Wednesday when three of the lawmen opened fire, officials said.
The family commissioned a forensic pathologist, Dr. Brent Hall, who found that Brown was shot four times in the right arm and once squarely in the back of his head.
The shot to the head was fired from “intermediate” range and penetrated Brown’s skull and brain, according to Hall, who is based in Boone, North Carolina. The bullet wound had a trajectory of “bottom to top, left to right and back to front,” Hall’s report said.
A state death certificate showed that Brown died from a “penetrating gunshot wound of the head.”
Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s son, said the findings showed that his father posed no threat to deputies, making deadly force unnecessary.
“Those gunshots to the arm, that weren’t enough? That weren’t enough?” he said. “It’s obvious he was trying to get away. It’s obvious, and they’re going to shoot him in the back of the head? That s— not right. That’s not right at all, man.”
A judge last week rejected bids to have body camera footage of deputies shooting Brown released to the public, while stipulating the man’s family would be allowed to view it.
Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster said turning over footage to news media could affect a potential trial of law enforcement officers who opened fire on Brown. He also said he’d revisit the issue in 30 to 45 days once investigations of the incident are completed.
In many states, law enforcement footage, such as video shot from the dashboard of police cars or officers’ body cameras, is considered a public record, creating a defined, simple path for that to be publicly released.
But that’s not the case in North Carolina, which requires a judge’s order to allow such footage to be released.
District Attorney Andrew Womble opposed immediate release of the video, supporting just a private showing to Brown’s family, arguing that public release would impede his ability to fairly investigate whether the sheriff’s deputies were justified in using deadly force.
During the hearing on potential release of police video, Womble said Brown’s car can be seen in footage moving backward and then forward, each time making contact with officers.
“As it backs up it does make contact with law enforcement officers,” Womble said. “At this point, the car is stationary. There is no movement and officers are positioned around the car. The next movement of the car is forward, it is in the direction of law enforcement and makes contact with law enforcement. It is then and only then that you hear shots.”