We previously talked about the shooting of Andrew Brown, 42, one of the latest police shootings that sparked protests. The footage from the body camera has now been released with a decision not to charge an officer. The determination of a justified shooting is based on facts that are very different from what was reported in media coverage at the time. It appears that Brown came into contact with officers using his car, although Brown appears to be trying to evade the officers who rearranged the car. The Brown family had previously stated that the videotape showed he did not drive towards the MPs, which now does not appear to be the case.
District Attorney Andrew Womble said Brown was shot by three Pasquotank MPs who were justified in using lethal force “to protect themselves and others”. Evidence presented included four body camera videos showing Brown refusing to heed repeated warnings to stop and then driving his car right by one of the officers. The first lap was fired from the front of the vehicle, not the rear as commonly reported.
The actions unfold quickly. It seems to me that Brown clearly escaped and that his movements by car were attempts to escape. It didn’t seem like he was trying to run over the MPs, but he accelerated in their direction.
Here is Womble’s report:
Deputy Lunsford’s hand was still on the driver’s door handle when Brown’s car reversed and the handle was snatched from his hand. At that moment, Deputy Lunsford yelled and Deputy Lunsford was pulled over the hood of Brown’s vehicle, where his body and safety equipment were hit by the vehicle. Deputy Lunsford’s left arm rested on the hood. Deputy Lunsford took evasive maneuvers to avoid the front left tire of Brown’s vehicle, and police forces grew heated and Brown was loudly told to stop the car. Brown ignored the officer’s orders and backed up his car until blocked from the back of his apartment. Then Brown started the car and turned the steering wheel to the left, right next to the police officers who had now surrounded his vehicle. Despite this tense situation and Mr. Brown’s aggressive driving, no police officer fired a shot. As Brown’s car moved forward, Deputy Lunsford was now positioned directly in front of the vehicle and all officers were shouting orders to stop. Brown ignored the orders and drove straight to Deputy Lunsford. Deputy Lunsford pushed his left hand off the hood. At that moment the first shot is fired. The assistant Lunsford then turned out of the way to avoid being run over by Brown’s vehicle.
While MPs were trying to serve arrest warrants and conduct a drug-related search, Womble also revealed that Brown had been selling drugs to an undercover officer. MPs were briefed on Brown’s 1995 history of resisting the arrest and the charges of assault, assault with a lethal weapon, and assault with serious injuries.
The use of lethal force involved the use of the car to strike against officers. When a proxy tried to open Brown’s door, Brown threw the car into reverse. The officer landed on the hood of the car. Then Brown drove the car forward and straight to the officer. The deputy pushed the car to avoid being run over. The car came into contact with a second officer.
The first shot went through the windshield, followed by shots through the side windows. Then shots were fired from behind as the car raced straight at an officer in a car.
As I mentioned earlier, reports of such contacts could be treated as the use of a car as a lethal weapon. Courts have ruled that a car that makes contact with officials is a basis for the justified use of lethal force. See e.g. B. In Thomas v. Durastanti, 607 F.3d 655 (10th Cir. 2010) and Jenkins v. Bartlett, 487 F.3d 482 (7th Cir. 2007).
Womble followed such cases in explaining
“I find that the facts of this case make it clear that the officers who used deadly force for Andrew Brown Jr. did so judiciously and only when a violent criminal was using a lethal weapon to endanger their lives. Brown’s actions and behavior were indeed dangerous at the time of the shooting … Brown posed an imminent threat to the safety of officials and others. “
There is no written report yet, but the family could advance the finding with a civil lawsuit. However, the videotape provides a defense for the officers and the city.