The family of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man who was fatally shot by police in April, filed a civil rights lawsuit on Wednesday over his death. The family is seeking a judgement in excess of $30 million for “emotional distress, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and other pain and suffering.”
“We believe that finally Andrew Brown can get justice because he did not get justice in life and, so far, he hasn’t even gotten justice in death,” attorney Bakari Sellers said Wednesday at a press conference.
Brown, 42, was killed in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, after sheriff’s deputies serving felony warrants and a search warrant surrounded his car. Partial video of the shooting released in May shows Brown attempting to drive away from the scene, by first backing up and then turning left to drive between officers. Deputies then opened fire, shooting a total of 14 times. Brown was hit several times, and the car crashed shortly afterwards.
In June, a state autopsy report labeled his death a homicide, attributing it to a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
Brown’s family has consistently called for the full body camera footage of his death to be publicly released. The family was allowed to view 18 minutes of the footage in May, and said it showed Brown did not hit officers with his car before they started shooting.
In the lawsuit, Brown’s family claims he did not pose a risk to officers when he tried to flee the scene, and that as a result, deputies from the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and the Dare County Sheriff’s Office used “objectively unreasonable, excessive and conscious shocking” force in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
“At no time were any members of the PCSO, DCSO or others in any imminent threat of harm or injury from Brown or his vehicle as he drove his vehicle away from law enforcement,” the lawsuit said.
Seven Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office deputies were placed on leave following Brown’s death. But in May, District Attorney Andrew Womble said deputies were “justified” in shooting at Brown’s car because he used his car as a “deadly weapon” and made contact with an officer, an assertion the family disputes.
The lawsuit names several officers who allegedly fired their weapons during the incident as defendants, and also accuses Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten and Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie of enabling a culture of excessive force, indifference and silence.
“All individual Defendants acted with a depraved indifference to human life and conscious disregard for the safety of the general public, constituted an intentional unwelcome and unprivileged touching of Brown, and was undertaken in bad faith and with actual malice,” the lawsuit alleges.
Neither the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office nor the Dare County Sheriff’s Office immediately responded to CBS News’ request for comment.
The family is seeking compensatory, consequential and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees and other costs of the case — but stressed at the press conference that the case is not about money.
“This family needs justice,” said one of Brown’s aunts, Lillie Brown Clark.
“This lawsuit is not about finances,” said attorney Chance Lynch. “This is about a family. This is about a family who lost their father, their grandfather, their nephew.”
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