ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — A neighbor and lifelong friend of Andrew Brown Jr. said he fled from Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies in his car before more than a dozen shots were fired at the vehicle, killing him.
Demetria Williams, who lives a few houses down from the slain man, said Thursday that she heard shots Wednesday morning and came running. When she reached Brown’s house, she saw deputies remove his dead body from the driver’s seat of the vehicle and attempt CPR.
She counted 14 shell casings on the ground, she said, and noted the rear windshield of the vehicle had been shot out.
“I got down there and they were shooting at the car,” Williams said. “He didn’t get far because the sheriff deputies were in the driveway. He was getting away. He wasn’t a threat.”
Williams had joined roughly 200 others in protest in Elizabeth City on Wednesday night, marching through the small college town.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said Wednesday that deputies were carrying out a search warrant when the shooting happened. He said a deputy, who has not been identified, has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of a State Bureau of Investigation review.
Demonstrators talk with Elizabeth City Police Chief Eddie Buffaloe, Jr. outside the Pasquotank County Public Safety Building in downtown Elizabeth City, NC Wednesday, April 21, 2022. A Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr., who is Black, on April 21, 2021 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Officials say they were executing a search warrant about 8:30 a.m. on Perry Street. The shooting is under review by the State Bureau of Investigation. TRAVIS LONG TLONG@NEWSOBSERVER.COM
Officials provided few details about the shooting, which happened about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Elizabeth City. They did not say what the warrant was for, nor how many shots were fired at Brown.
On Wednesday night, the City Council in Elizabeth City held an emergency meeting that became emotional as council members voiced their concerns and fears.
“There are a lot of people hurting in our city,” Councilman Gabriel Adkins said at the meeting. “We have a lot of hurt people.”
Town officials repeatedly emphasized that it was the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Department and not the Elizabeth City Police Department involved in the shooting.
Williams, the neighbor, said her friend Brown had been trying to regain custody of some of his children. Though he had spent time behind bars for drug offenses, she said he did not carry a gun.
“He was a real, for real, nice guy,” she said. “I’m not just saying that.”
On Thursday, fresh tire tracks cut deep across Brown’s yard, and the wall of his white brick house appeared splattered with mud.
Neighbors said Brown’s car came to rest across Roanoke Avenue, hitting a crepe myrtle in a yard roughly 100 feet away. Pieces of the car’s headlights remained in the scarred tree.
Williams said deputies entered Brown’s house by force after he had been shot. She said she did not know whether deputies tried to communicate with Brown before shooting at the car because she came after the first shot.
On Wednesday night, Elizabeth City Councilman Darius Horton, who wore a Black Lives Matter shirt, said officials need to be transparent about what happened.
“We don’t have the information, but it needs to be put out in the forefront. The body cameras, that needs to be released immediately,” he said.
Sheriff Wooten said the deputies involved had body-worn cameras. He said he did not have a timeline for when the footage would be released.
“We will be transparent, and we will take the proper action based on the findings of [the SBI] investigation,” he said.
Protesters Wednesday night chanted “Say his name! Andrew Brown!” and “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” as they marched through downtown Elizabeth City.
“We’re dealing with issues in our communities,” said Rev. Timothy Stallings Sr., leading a prayer. “Personal issues! Stress issues! Life-filled issues! We need our law enforcement not to shoot us but to come help us out.”
Some of those gathered were friends of Brown.
“I’ve been knowing him 30 years, and he wasn’t a violent person,” said Daniel Bowser. “He didn’t mess with guns, he didn’t tote no guns.
“I don’t care what they put out there, he didn’t deserve to die.”
By late Wednesday, protesters crowded onto busy Ehringhaus Street in Elizabeth City, taking knees simultaneously as they blocked traffic.
They asked for Sheriff Wooten for a public accounting of what is known and what will be investigated, promising to stay peaceful and return Thursday.
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