A North Carolina woman was arrested Monday evening after she allegedly struck peaceful protesters with her car, and police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
The incident occurred at approximately 6:45 p.m. ET at an intersection in Elizabeth City, a small coastal town some 90 miles northeast of Greenville. People were holding a peaceful demonstration to call for transparency in the fatal shooting of a local resident, Andrew Brown Jr., when a motorist hit two protesters, according to the Elizabeth City Police Department.
An ambulance transported the victims -- identified as Michelle Fleming Morris and Valerie Lindsey, both 42 and of Elizabeth City -- to the nearby Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries and subsequently released, police said.
The motorist -- identified as 41-year-old Lisa Michelle O'Quinn of Greenville -- was taken into custody and charged with two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill, one count of careless and reckless driving and one count of unsafe movement. She was being held at the Albemarie District Jail on a $40,000 secured bond and has an initial court appearance set for Thursday, according to police. It was unknown whether she had obtained legal representation.
"The police department is currently investigating this matter and we will be presenting facts and findings in this case to include potential aggravating factors for criminal enhancements for potential sentencing purposes of a hate crime involving this event," the Elizabeth City Police Department said in a statement Tuesday.
Widespread protests have been taking place in Elizabeth City and across the country since April 21 when Brown, a 42-year-old unarmed Black man, was shot to death in his car by local sheriff's deputies who were attempting to serve him two arrest warrants and a search warrant in connection with a felony drug investigation. Brown's family claims he was "executed" as he tried to drive away to save his own life.
The shooting has drawn nationwide attention, in part because it happened less than 24 hours after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man.
Last week, Elizabeth City District Attorney Andrew Womble announced that no charges will be filed against the three deputies who opened fire on Brown, a father of seven. Womble said the deputies were "justified" in their use of deadly force because Brown drove his vehicle toward them and allegedly made contact with one deputy before officers fired their weapons. He said he made his decision based on the results of a probe by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
According to Womble, an autopsy by the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner showed Brown was shot twice -- once in the shoulder and once in the back of the head. Brown's family and their attorneys commissioned an independent autopsy that they say shows he was shot five times, including once in the back of the head.
The lawyers representing Brown's family questioned the district attorney's decision and said it will not stop their fight for justice.
"To say this shooting was justified, despite the known facts, is both an insult and a slap in the face to Andrew’s family, the Elizabeth City community, and to rational people everywhere," the lawyers said in a statement last week. "Not only was the car moving away from officers, but four of them did not fire their weapons -- clearly they did not feel that their lives were endangered. And the bottom line is that Andrew was killed by a shot to the back of the head."