A sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina has shot and killed a black man while serving a search warrant, authorities said, raising tensions over policing in the wake of the Derek Chauvin trial and Ma’Khia Bryant killing.
The deputy in Elizabeth City, close to the Atlantic coast, was placed on leave pending a review by the state bureau of investigation, Pasquotank county sheriff Tommy Wooten said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Wooten said the deputy shot Andrew Brown at about 8:30 on Wednesday morning. The deputy was wearing an active body camera at the time of the shooting, said the sheriff, who declined to identify the officer or say how many shots he fired.
Wooten did not give any details about the warrant. Court records show Brown was 42 years old and had a history of drug charges and a misdemeanor drug possession conviction.
An eyewitness said that Brown was shot while trying to drive away, and that deputies fired at him multiple times. The car skidded out of Brown’s yard and eventually hit a tree, said Demetria Williams, who lives on the same street.
Williams said after hearing one gunshot, she ran outside, where she saw other shots being fired at the car.
“When they opened the door he was already dead,” Williams told Associated Press. “He was slumped over.”
She said officers tried to perform chest compressions on him.
A car authorities removed from the scene appeared to have multiple bullet holes and a broken rear windshield.
Dozens of people gathered to express their anger at the scene of the shooting in Elizabeth, a town of about 18,000 people 170 miles (274 km) north-east of Raleigh. A large crowd, some holding signs proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop killing unarmed Black Men”, later stood outside city hall while the city council held an emergency meeting,
A group later gathered in the parking lot of the sheriff’s office and a crowd that grew to more than 200 blocked traffic on a main thoroughfare.
“The police didn’t have to shoot my baby,” said Martha McCullen, an aunt of Brown who said she raised him after his parents died.
“Andrew Brown was a good person,” she said. “He was about to get his kids back. He was a good father. Now his kids won’t never see him again.”
During the emergency council meeting, black members spoke about the fears of their community amid multiple police shootings across the country and implored investigators to remain transparent.
“I’m afraid as a black man,” councilman Gabriel Adkins said. “I’m afraid that I may be the next one that my family might have to see on the news that I was gunned down.”
Adkins said businesses in the neighborhood of the shooting had begun boarding up their windows in anticipation of violence.
“Not only do we need transparency … we need accountability,” said councilman Darius Horton, who called for the immediate release of bodycam footage, the search warrant and a speedy explanation of what led to the shooting. “We need answers. … Let’s not hide behind anything.”
Among those who gathered at the scene of the shooting was Keith Rivers, president of the Pasquotank county chapter of the NAACP.
“When is it going to stop? We just got a verdict yesterday,” Rivers said, referring to the guilty verdicts handed down in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
“Is it open season now? At some point, it has to stop. We have to start holding the people in charge accountable.”