Funeral services for Andrew Brown, Jr., an unarmed Black man fatally shot in the back by law enforcement, drew mourners today in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Brown, a 42-year-old father of seven, was killed on April 21. Officials said he was being served a warrant by Pasquotank County, NC sheriff deputies.
After being allowed to view a brief clip of the police body cam video, relatives have described his death as an “execution.” While the family and others have called for the full video to be released, a judge has ruled that it will not be made public for at least 30-40 days.
In an emotional eulogy, Rev. Al Sharpton said that didn’t sit well with him. “I know a con game when I see it,” said the National Action Network founder. “Release the whole tape and let the public see what happened to Andrew Brown.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Brown family, also spoke, and local clergy and dignitaries offered reflections. Family members related to George Floyd and Eric Garner are attending the service as well.
Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, offered a message of accountability to the family and community.
“A warrant is not a license to kill even if a suspect supposedly drives away,” Bishop Barber said at a recent news conference. “A warrant does not mean a person is guilty. A warrant is not permission to shoot someone, possibly with assault rifles, multiple times. It is not the authorization to shoot someone in the back. And let’s be clear: It doesn’t matter if the officers are white or Black or brown or men or women. If they engage in brutality, use excessive force or abuse their power to murder citizens, officers of the law must be held accountable if the law is to mean anything for the rest of us.”
Today’s private funeral for Brown at Fountain of Life Church follows public viewings over the weekend. Protests continue in the rural community, and a state of emergency has been declared.
Federal and regional investigations are said to be underway. Three deputies have been placed on administrative leave, while four others whom officials said never fired their weapons have been reinstated to active duty. Pasquotank County Sheriff, Tommy Wooten, II said in a statement on Facebook that “as soon as all the important facts are given to me, I will quickly act to ensure accountability and I’ll be as transparent as I possibly can with the public.”
Brown’s death follows recent killings of Black men, women and children by law enforcement around the country. The deaths include: 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Minnesota; 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago, and 16-year-old Ma’ Khia Bryant in Ohio.
Last week, White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond, Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, and White House Counsel Dana Remus met with members and representatives of the families of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Terence Crutcher, Andrew Brown Jr., and Botham Jean to discuss the urgent need for police reform.
Besides the White House, a group of bipartisan lawmakers on Capitol Hill are pushing for passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (H.R. 1280) which has passed the House of Representatives, but has stalled so far in the Senate. Meanwhile, advocates have proposed the BREATHE Act to divest federal resources from policing and invest in new approaches to community safety.