The family of Andrew Brown Jr. gathered at a church in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on Monday for the funeral of the 42-year-old father and grandfather fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies two weeks ago.
Lined up outside the Fountain of Life church, the family wore shirts that read “Long Live Drew” and featured Brown’s picture, while the back of the shirts read, “Gone but never forgotten.” Overhead, a plane flew with a banner that read, “Andrew Brown, Jr. Never Forget.”
Two young children walked inside the church holding an adult’s hand wearing shirts that read “RIP Dad” on the front with a picture of Brown. Brown’s closed metallic casket was in front of the stage inside the church.
Family attorney Benjamin Crump, standing alongside attorneys Bakari Sellers and Harry Daniels, said Brown’s killing was unjustifiable and connected it to the broader issue of police violence against Black people.
“Because Andrew cannot make the plea for justice, it is up to us to make the plea for justice,” Crump said.
Members of Brown’s family are expected to speak, and civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy. Members of the families of George Floyd and Eric Garner, two other Black men killed in encounters with law enforcement, were also expected to attend, Crump said.
Brown’s death, just a day after a jury delivered a guilty verdict in the murder trial of a former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, has prompted protests in Elizabeth City, home to about 18,000 residents, along with calls for justice and transparency.
Authorities have released few details about what led to the shooting on April 21, when Brown was fatally shot by Pasquotank County deputies who were trying to execute a warrant. An autopsy commissioned by Brown’s family and their attorneys said Brown suffered five gunshot wounds — four to the right arm and one to the back of his head.
State law requires a court order to release of body camera footage. A North Carolina judge ruled last Wednesday that Brown’s family would be allowed to see body camera footage of the shooting, but the videos would not be made public for 30 days.
Earlier in the week, Brown’s family was able to view a short snippet of footage, about 20 seconds long, which a family attorney said depicted an “execution.” Only two family members were able to see the footage along with legal representatives, Daniels told CNN.
FBI opens civil rights investigation into shooting
The family and the district attorney have given different accounts of what occurred, with the latter saying in a court hearing last week that deputies fired when the car Brown was driving made contact with law enforcement. But the family and their attorneys said Brown was driving away to save his life.
Protests calling to release the body camera footage continued Sunday, with a criminal justice reform demonstration held in Brown’s honor. Brown’s family, community leaders and activists marched through Elizabeth City, chanting his name and holding flags that read, “Black Lives Matter.”
“Release the tapes,” marchers chanted Sunday. “The whole tapes. The real tapes.”
“I just don’t understand what they are trying to accomplish,” Lillie Brown Clark, Brown’s aunt, told CNN. “What’s the point in having the video and taxpayers pay for body cams if they are not being seen?”
Jadine Hampton, Brown’s cousin, told CNN that although the family is grieving, they can’t stop demanding justice.
“I think we are grieving but we are doing what we have to do,” she said. “Because the way things happened, we have to be here, we have to support, we have to protest. We have a long road ahead.”
“The first order is release the tapes, the whole tapes, all of them, every angle, every body cam that was on,” Hampton said. “We need to see it.”
The shooting is under investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has also opened a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting, according to the bureau’s Charlotte field office.
“I want y’all to hear the pain in this community. The pain, the yelling that y’all hear, the agony that y’all hear — this is pain,” family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said in a news conference last Tuesday. “And a lot of time pain is interpreted as rebellion or whatever people want to interpret it as. Call it what it is. It’s painful for this family. It’s painful for this community.”
Brown’s funeral service follows those of at least two other Black people killed in encounters with law enforcement in recent weeks: Daunte Wright and Ma’Khia Bryant.
In delivering the eulogy, Sharpton will reprise a role he held at the funeral for Wright, a Black man fatally shot by a police officer last month in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center.
Brown’s funeral also comes just three days after one in Columbus, Ohio, for Ma’Khia, a Black 16-year-old who was also shot by a police officer there.