Determined to get justice for a Black man fatally shot by North Carolina sheriff's deputies who were deemed justified in their use of deadly force by a local prosecutor, a group of civil rights activists and religious leaders met Thursday with the state's governor to ask him to support their request for an expedited federal investigation.
The group met with Gov. Roy Cooper, State Attorney General Josh Stein and members of the legislative Black Caucus to discuss the April 21 shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Liberty City by Pasquotank County Sheriff's deputies who went to the 42-year-old man's home to serve an arrest warrant stemming from a drug investigation.
"Outstanding. Uplifting. Rejuvenated. Re-energized," Pasquotank County NAACP chapter president Keith Rivers said of the meeting.
Following the meeting, Roy's staff released a statement saying, "The Governor continued to express his belief that federal officials should continue to investigate this shooting and that special prosecutors should handle cases of police shootings."
The statement also said Roy expressed his support for a change in state law to make it easier for the public to access body camera footage in the aftermath of shootings by law enforcement officers in the state.
Immediately after the meeting, the group boarded a bus to Washington, D.C., where they planned to meet U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday afternoon. Rivers said the group will present Garland with a petition including more than 2,000 signatures requesting an expedited federal investigation of Brown's shooting and to launch a civil rights investigation of the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office and Elizabeth City, North Carolina, District Attorney Andrew Womble's handling of the case.
Womble said at a May 18 news conference that the three deputies who opened fire on Brown, a father of seven, were justified in their use of deadly force because Brown drove his vehicle toward them and allegedly made contact with one deputy twice before officers fired their weapons.
Womble said he made his decision based on the results of an investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
"Mr. Brown's death, while tragic, was justified, because Mr. Brown's actions caused three deputies with the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others," said Womble, who showed news reporters body camera footage of the shooting.
Protesters have taken to the street of Elizabeth City nightly since Brown's death to demand justice.
Womble said an autopsy by the state Medical Examiner's Office showed Brown was shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the back of the head as he tried to flee in his BMW when deputies arrived at his home and surrounded his car.
The prosecutor said officers fired a total of 14 shots from two Glock 17 handguns and an AR-15 223 rifle after Brown allegedly used his car as a deadly weapon.
Brown's family and their attorneys commissioned an independent autopsy they said shows he was shot five times, including once in the back of the head.
Brown's son, Khalil Ferebee, who was allowed to see some body camera footage of the deadly confrontation, said his father's shooting was as "an execution."