May 17, 2021

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FBI opens civil rights probe into killing of Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina – CNBC

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Protesters march in the evening after family members were shown body camera footage of a deputy sheriff shooting and killing Black suspect Andrew Brown Jr. last week, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, April 26, 2021.

Jonathan Drake | Reuters

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed Tuesday that it will investigate the killing of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man who died after police shot him during an arrest in North Carolina last week.

The announcement comes a day after attorneys for Brown’s family, allowed to watch a 20-second video of his arrest, said the 42-year-old was shot in the back of the head while he had his hands on his steering wheel.

Brown was shot five times in all, including four times in his right arm, according to an autopsy conducted at the request of his family.

Brown was killed by sheriff’s deputies in Elizabeth City during an attempt to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants. Seven of the deputies involved in the arrest were placed on paid leave, the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office said.

“The FBI Charlotte Field Office has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the police-involved shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr.,” an FBI spokesman said. “Agents will work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice to determine whether federal laws were violated.”

The spokesman declined to comment further, saying the investigation was ongoing.

Brown was killed Wednesday, one day after a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd.

Floyd’s death in custody reinvigorated the movement opposing police brutality against Black people. The Justice Department is pursuing a civil rights investigation into Floyd’s killing in addition to a pattern-or-practice probe into the Minneapolis Police Department.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the pattern-or-practice investigation Wednesday. On Monday, Garland said the DOJ would pursue a similar investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department in Kentucky, which has been criticized for the death of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was killed in her apartment last year after police entered using a no-knock warrant and fired 32 bullets.

Attorneys for Brown’s family have condemned his killing and called for more footage to be released. Authorities have said they have requested that a judge permit the release of the video.

Based on what they were allowed to see already, Brown’s family has said the police appeared to lack a justification for using deadly force.

“There was no time in the 20 seconds that we saw where he was threatening the officers in any kind of way,” Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, an attorney, said at a press conference after watching the video, the Associated Press reported.

Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s son, told reporters after watching the video that his father had been “executed” while trying to save his own life.

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten has asked for patience while investigations continue.

“This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds, and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher,” Wooten said Monday, according to NBC News.

It’s not clear how long the FBI’s investigation into Brown’s death will continue. William Barr, while attorney general under former President Donald Trump, announced the civil rights investigation into Floyd’s killing in May 2020. Garland said that investigation was ongoing last week, but did not provide further updates.

The civil rights investigations into Brown’s and Floyd’s killings will look into whether federal laws were broken during those particular arrests. In contrast, pattern-or-practice investigations probe whether police departments routinely flout civil rights laws.

Under Trump, pattern-or-practice investigations were largely curtailed, though Garland has shown some eagerness to revamp them.

While the Congressional Research Service has found that the Justice Department historically opens about three such investigations a year, Garland has opened two this month. About a third of pattern-or-practice investigations result in significant reforms, the research service found.

In addition to the FBI investigation, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is also examining Brown’s killing.

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