Family Files $30 Million Civil Rights Over Deputies’ Shooting Of Black Man

According to a $30 million civil rights complaint filed Wednesday by the family of an unarmed Black man who was shot by sheriff’s deputies in North Carolina, he died as a result of the officers’ “intentional and reckless disregard for his life.”

Andrew Brown Jr. was shot and murdered by Pasquotank County Sheriff’s officers on April 21 at his Elizabeth City residence as they were pursuing drug-related warrants.

Brown’s BMW was encircled by deputies before he backed up and went ahead. They shot at and into his vehicle many times. A gunshot to the back of his skull killed him.

Brown’s lawyers claimed that the shooting was unjustified since Brown was attempting to flee, not toward the officers.

At a press conference, attorney Harry Daniels said, “This complaint was straightforward to prepare because of the facts in this case.” “Anyone can see that this was a wrongful death.”

The complaint is the most recent in a series of federal civil rights lawsuits filed in the aftermath of high-profile police shootings of Black and brown persons. Many have resulted in settlements that include money but do not include admissions of guilt. Some of them wind up in court, where a jury might award huge settlements that are later reduced on appeal.

In March, the family of George Floyd, who was murdered in police custody in Minneapolis last year, reached a $27 million settlement. Breonna Taylor’s family was awarded $12 million by the city of Louisville, Kentucky, in September, in exchange for police reform.

Brown’s paternal aunt, Lillie Brown Clark, who is the administrator for his estate, filed the case in a US District Court in North Carolina. Brown, 42, was the father of seven children, according to the lawsuit.

Sheriff Tommy Wooten II of Pasquotank County and numerous officers are among the defendants. Wooten’s office “has no comments on the complaint,” according to Maj. Aaron Wallis in an email to The Associated Press.

Brown’s family’s lawyers have consistently said that he presented no threat. Authorities said he was using his automobile as a “deadly weapon,” leading cops to think the lethal force was required.

Andrew Womble, the district attorney, cleared the deputies in May. He said they were justifiable because Brown had almost run over a deputy with his automobile while defying orders to reveal his hands and exit the vehicle.

The federal lawsuit is the latest repercussion of the shooting, which shocked the tiny town in northeastern North Carolina.

Residents claim to have been demonstrating for the previous 85 days. One of the deputies who shot Brown’s vehicle with his pistol has resigned. The killing was also the subject of a civil rights investigation by the FBI.

Outside law enforcement analysts have criticized the incident, claiming that cops should not shoot at a vehicle if there is no other lethal threat.

The case will succeed, according to Daniels, the Brown family’s attorney, because of judgments made by the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes North Carolina. He referenced a decision in South Carolina against police officers who continued to shoot at a guy after his automobile had passed them by.

Daniels stated, “They had no authorization to shoot him.”

However, Candace McCoy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, doubts that the Brown case will result in a substantial settlement or jury judgment.

“You might make a fair argument that someone’s life was at risk in this particular instance,” McCoy said.

In terms of police wrongdoing, she said the Floyd and Taylor instances were “light years” apart from the Brown case.

However, according to McCoy, the cumulative impact of these civil rights cases has resulted in greater training and improved standards. The cases are based on a Supreme Court ruling from 1980 that permits citizens to sue government agencies for alleged constitutional breaches.

“Over the last 40 years, the effect of these cases has been extremely crucial in lowering police use of force nationwide,” she added.

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