The FBI launched a civil rights probe Tuesday into the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man killed by police officers in North Carolina, as his family released an independent autopsy showing he was shot five times, including in the back of the head.
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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called for a special prosecutor while pressure built on authorities to release body camera footage of last week’s shooting. A judge scheduled a hearing Wednesday to consider formal requests to make the video public.
The FBI’s Charlotte field office, which opened the civil rights investigation into Brown’s death, said in a statement that its agents planned to work closely with the Department of Justice “to determine whether federal laws were violated.”
The independent autopsy was performed Sunday by a pathologist hired by Brown’s family. The exam noted four wounds to the right arm and one to the head. The state’s autopsy has not been released yet.
The family’s lawyers also released a copy of the death certificate, which lists the cause of death as a “penetrating gunshot wound of the head.” The certificate, signed by a paramedic services instructor who serves as a local medical examiner, describes the death as a homicide.
Brown was shot last Wednesday by police serving drug-related search and arrest warrants at his house in the North Carolina town of Elizabeth City, about 160 miles northeast of Raleigh.
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The autopsy results come a day after Brown’s relatives were shown a 20-second clip of footage from one deputy’s body camera. One of the Brown family lawyers, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, who viewed the video, said Monday that officers opened fire on Brown while he had his hands on the steering wheel of a car. She said the video showed Brown trying to drive away but posing no threat to officers.
Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee questioned why police opened fire.
“Yesterday I said he was executed. This autopsy report shows me that was correct,” he said Tuesday at a news conference. “It’s obvious he was trying to get away. It’s obvious. And they’re going to shoot him in the back of the head?”
The pathologist, North Carolina-based Dr. Brent Hall, noted a wound to the back of Brown’s head from an undetermined distance that penetrated his skull and brain. He said there was no exit wound. Two shots to Brown’s right arm penetrated the skin. Two other shots to the arm grazed him.
The shooting prompted days of protests and calls for justice and transparency. Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II has said multiple deputies fired shots but released few other details. Seven Pasquotank County deputies have been placed on leave.
Local clergy members who called a news conference outside of an Elizabeth City church welcomed the FBI’s announcement.
“Amen. Because the people here are inept, incapable and incompetent,” said the Rev. William Barber II, who leads the Poor People’s Campaign, referring to local authorities.