What You Need To Know:
This is another day on which a funeral will be held for a Black person killed by police. Today, family and friends will remember Andrew Brown, Jr. as the nation will learn more about the man and the Black man shot to death by North Carolina county sheriff’s deputies. The celebration of Andrew’s life is a necessary step in the grieving process, but as many are likely to mention during today’s funeral, the real work lies ahead.
Andrew Brown Jr., a 42-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies April 21 in his car outside his Elizabeth City, NC home. The deputies reported they were there to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants on Brown.
An inordinate number of questions need to be asked in the death of Andrew Brown, Jr, in the deaths of Ma’Khia Bryant and Daunte Wright, and the list goes on. Primarily, when will the systems that allows these police killings to thrive and multiply, be changed overall?
A major discrepancy is seen in questions starting with the body camera video. How much of the video can be seen and who should be able to see it? Why did Judge Jeffrey Foster want to prevent people from viewing the video?
From the perspective of District Attorney Andrew Womble, officers fired when the car Brown was driving moved toward them. However, when the Brown family and attorneys were allowed to watch the 20-second snippet of video, they reported that Mr. Brown was sitting inside his car, hands “firmly on the wheel,” when gunshots were fired. He did not appear to be holding a weapon, and was driving away as the police continued to shoot.
Judge Foster ruled the family will be allowed to view more footage this week. None has been publicly released yet, despite legal efforts by media organizations. Foster said he would reconsider the request to release the tapes in 30-45 days.
The “handling” of Andrew Brown’s case by the Pasquotank County Sheriff, Tommy Wooten, his department and Judge Foster, is a microcosm of our country. This case shows the racial divide between the historic Black town of Elizabeth City, NC , with a Black mayor and Black Chief of Police and the majority White Pasquotank County population and government. As reported by CNN:
Community leaders and residents say while they maintain a strong relationship with the Elizabeth City Police Department, their relationship with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office is strained. The agency, they say, has done little to build trust with Black residents and excludes Black activists from discussions around policies that affect the community such as the use of body cameras. The issue reflects a racial divide in this rural county of some 40,000 people that is 54% White and 36% Black with a White sheriff, White county attorney, and a predominantly White Board of Commissioners. Elizabeth City, however, is 50% Black and 37% White with a Black mayor, Black police chief and a majority Black city council. The town has nearly 18,000 residents.
As Rev. Al Sharpton and others come together today to comfort the family of Andrew Brown, Jr., may they also be comforted by the fact that justice in the form of real systemic change will come to their loved one, to Elizabeth City, NC and to a nation of people living in fear that any one of us could be next.