Family files $30M suit over deputies’ shooting of Black man

Jul 14, 2021, 8:06 AM | Updated: 12:05 pm

The family of an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies in North Carolina says he died because of the officers’ “intentional and reckless disregard of his life,” according to a $30 million civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Andrew Brown Jr. was killed April 21 by Pasquotank County Sheriff’s deputies while they were serving drug-related warrants at his Elizabeth City home.

Several deputies surrounded Brown in his BMW before his car backed up and moved forward. They fired several shots at and into his vehicle. He was killed by a bullet to the back of his head.

Lawyers for the Brown family said the shooting was unjustified because Brown was trying to drive away — not toward the deputies.

“This lawsuit was easy to draft because of the facts in this case,” attorney Harry Daniels told reporters at a news conference. “Anybody can see that this was an unlawful killing.”

The filing is the latest in a string of federal civil rights lawsuits in the wake of high-profile police shootings of Black and brown people. Many have ended in settlements that often include money but specify there was no admission of guilt. Some end up in court where a jury can award massive settlements that are whittled down on appeal.

The family of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis police custody last year, agreed to a $27 million settlement in March. In September, the city of Louisville, Kentucky, agreed to pay Breonna Taylor’s family $12 million and reform police practices.

The lawsuit in North Carolina was filed in a U.S. District Court by Brown’s paternal aunt, Lillie Brown Clark, who is the administrator for his estate. The suit says the 42-year-old Brown was the father of seven children.

Defendants include Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II and several deputies. Maj. Aaron Wallio told The Associated Press in an email that Wooten’s office “has no comments on the lawsuit.”

Attorneys for Brown’s family have repeatedly said that he posed no threat. Authorities have said he was using his car as a “deadly weapon” and caused deputies to believe it was necessary to use deadly force.

District Attorney Andrew Womble cleared the deputies in May. He said they were justified because Brown had struck a deputy with his car and nearly ran him over while ignoring commands to show his hands and get out of the vehicle.

The federal lawsuit is the latest fallout from the shooting, which has sent shockwaves through the small city in northeastern North Carolina.

Residents say they have gathered in protest for the past 85 days. One of the deputies who fired his gun at Brown’s car has resigned. The FBI also launched a civil rights investigation into the death.

The shooting has also drawn scrutiny from outside law enforcement observers who say officers should not shoot at a vehicle when there is no other deadly threat besides the car.

Daniels, the Brown family attorney, said the lawsuit will prevail based on decisions made in the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers North Carolina. He cited a ruling against police officers in South Carolina who continued to shoot at a man after his car had driven by them.

“They had no authority to shoot him,” Daniels said.

But Candace McCoy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, questioned whether the Brown lawsuit would produce a large settlement or jury award.

“You could make a good case that, in this particular instance, somebody’s life was in danger,” McCoy said.

She added that the Floyd and Taylor cases were “light years different” from the Brown case in terms of police misconduct.

But McCoy said the overall effect of these civil rights lawsuits has led to more training and better practices. The lawsuits stem from a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows people to sue departments over alleged constitutional violations.

“The effect of these lawsuits has been really important in reducing police use of force nationwide over the last 40 years,” she said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Daniel Guess holds a photograph of himself, right, along with his father, Larry Guess, center, and ...
Associated Press

Gun violence in America: A long list of forgotten victims

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — Amid the stream of mass shootings that have become chillingly commonplace in America, the reality of the nation’s staggering murder rate can often be seen more clearly in the deaths that never make national news. Take this weekend in Chicago. On Monday, a rooftop shooter opened fire into crowds gathered for […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez, right, and Vice President Cristina Fernandez, atten...
Associated Press

Argentina’s economic change underlines president’s weakening

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The abrupt resignation of Argentina’s economy minister has engulfed the country in an all-too familiar anxiety that flows from its periodic financial crises in recent decades. The departure of moderate Martín Guzmán on Saturday also gave another sign of the growing isolation of President Alberto Fernández within his own governing […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: July 6, Richard III is crowned

Today in History Today is Wednesday, July 6, the 187th day of 2022. There are 178 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On July 6, 1944, an estimated 168 people died in a fire that broke out during a performance in the main tent of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey […]
21 hours ago
FILE - An electronic cigarette from Juul Labs is seen on on Feb. 25, 2020, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. ...
Associated Press

FDA temporarily suspends order banning Juul cigarettes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration issued an administrative stay Tuesday on the order it issued last month for vaping company Juul to pull its electronic cigarettes from the market. The agency said on Twitter that the stay temporarily suspends the marketing denial order while it conducts further review, but does not rescind […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Chrystul Kizer sits in the Kenosha County Courthouse on Feb. 6, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. Wisco...
Associated Press

Wisconsin court to rule on immunity in sex trafficking case

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Supreme Court is set to decide Wednesday whether a sex trafficking victim accused of homicide can argue at trial that she was justified in killing the man who trafficked her, a ruling that could help define the extent of immunity for trafficking victims nationwide. Prosecutors say Chrystul Kizer traveled to […]
21 hours ago
Brooke and Matt Strauss, who were married Sunday, pause after leaving their wedding bouquets in dow...
Associated Press

Parents of boy, 2, found alone at parade shooting among dead

Aiden McCarthy’s photo was shared across Chicago-area social media groups in the hours after the July 4 parade shooting in Highland Park, accompanied by pleas to help identify the 2-year-old who had been found at the scene bloodied and alone and to reunite him with his family. On Tuesday, friends and authorities confirmed that the […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Family files $30M suit over deputies’ shooting of Black man