May 18, 2021
Pasquotank District Attorney Press Conference Transcript: Fatal Police Shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. “Justified”
Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble held a press conference on May 18, 2021 to address the fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. He said: “Mr. Brown’s death, while tragic, was justified.” Read the transcript of the briefing from Elizabeth City here.
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Andrew Womble: (00:08)
First of all, I’d like to thank everybody for being here today. Once again, just as a form of introduction, my name is Andrew Womble and I am the Elected District Attorney for Judicial District One, which is the seven counties of the Northeast. We’re going to have this conference today. I have some prepared remarks that I’ll be reading from. I have copies of those already prepared that you may pick up in the press packet. If you would like to have us email those to you, if you would supply us with an email, we’ll be happy to do so.
Andrew Womble: (00:50)
On Wednesday, April 21st, 2021, Andrew Brown Jr. Of Elizabeth City, North Carolina was shot and killed by three deputies with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office. This incident occurred at the residence of Mr. Brown located at 421 Perry Street in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. After reviewing the investigation conducted 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. While the officer involved shooting that resulted in the death of Andrew Brown occurred on Wednesday, April 21st, law enforcement involvement with Mr. Brown began in the weeks prior and put the wheels in motion that eventually led to the attempted service of arrest and search warrants on April 21, 2021.
Andrew Womble: (01:52)
In the early months of this year, Detective Johnson with the Dare County Sheriff’s Office received information from a reliable, confidential source that Andrew Brown Jr. from Elizabeth City was selling drugs in Dare County. Detective Johnson contacted Pasquotank County, and confirmed Mr. Brown’s identity and that he is a known drug dealer. Upon learning this information, Detective Johnson with the aid of the confidential informant made two undercover buys from Brown on March 17th, 2021 and March 29th, 2021. Those buys were of cocaine and heroin respectively. A later SBI lab analysis determined that the heroin was laced with fentanyl. Subsequently, arrest warrants were issued for Brown’s arrest on April 20th, 2021. Simultaneous with the activity of the Dare County Sheriff’s Office, Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office began collecting their own intelligence on the drug activity of Mr. Brown at his residence at 421 Perry Street.
Andrew Womble: (02:58)
Detective Ryan Meads applied for and obtained a search warrant for the residence and vehicles of Mr. Brown. On Tuesday, April 20th, 2021, law enforcement now possessed two arrest warrants for the sale of controlled substances in Dare County, as well as a search warrant for the residence and vehicles of Mr. Brown. A joint team of law enforcement from Dare County and Pasquotank was assembled. The Dare County drug task force was to provide surveillance, and the officers present that day where Detective Johnson, Sergeant Ruth and Detective Langley. The Pasquotank Special Operation and Tactics Team would serve the warrants and take Mr. Brown into custody. Their team consisted of Lieutenant Judd, Sergeant Meads, Deputy Morgan, Deputy Llewellyn, Deputy Bishop, Deputy Swindell and Deputy Lunsford.
Andrew Womble: (03:53)
Deputies Morgan, Llewellyn, Bishop and Swindell were wearing body cameras. Their original plan was to serve the warrants on the night of April 20, 2021, however Mr. Brown was not at his residence and could not be located by the surveillance team. On the morning of April 21, 2021 at approximately 5:30 AM, law enforcement held a briefing here at the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and planned to serve the warrants on Mr. Brown. During the briefing conducted by Sergeant Meads, the team was briefed on Mr. Brown and his past involvement with law enforcement. It was relayed to the team that Mr. Brown has multiple resist arrest charges and convictions dating back to 1995. Additionally, Mr. Brown has assault, assault with a deadly weapon and assault inflicting serious injury convictions dating back to ’95. Further, Mr. Brown has barricaded doorways during previous home search warrant instances.
Andrew Womble: (04:58)
No children were believed to be at the location, and the mother of Mr. Brown’s minor children was seldom at his residence. At approximately 8:00 AM, Mr. Brown was located on Speed Street here in Elizabeth City by one of the members of the Dare County Narcotics Team. Mr. Brown then drove his vehicle to his residence at 421 Perry Street and remained in his vehicle until law enforcement arrived. Upon receiving this information, the Pasquotank County Team traveled to 421 Perry Street to serve the warrants in a clearly marked Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office truck with blue lights and emergency lights flashing. Detective Langley from Dare County drove the vehicle, and Deputy Lunsford was in the passenger seat. The remaining members of the Pasquotank County team were in the truck bed as the truck was in route. Upon arriving to 421 Perry Street at approximately 8:23 AM, Mr. Brown was still sitting in his vehicle beside the residence. Detective Langley pulled the Pasquotank County truck in the driveway with his right front bumper close to the front bumper of Brown’s vehicle to block any forward motion, and Brown was still seated in the vehicle.
Andrew Womble: (06:26)
The six members of the Pasquotank County team approached Brown’s vehicle, identified themselves, shouted commands to show them his hands and to exit the vehicle. All members were wearing clearly marked Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office gear and uniforms. Deputy Lunsford headed directly to the driver’s door with his weapon drawn and attempted to open the door. Deputy Swindell accompanied Deputy Lunsford to the driver’s side of the car. Deputy Llewellyn went around the Pasquotank County truck and approached the vehicle from the front passenger side. Would you like me to do this manually? Deputy Llewellyn went around the Pasquotank County truck and approached the vehicle from the front passenger side, and Deputy Bishop and Sergeant Meads were directly in front of Brown’s car. Deputy Morgan approached last and positioned himself between Deputy Bishop and Sergeant Meads. Nothing ever works the way it’s supposed to it, does it? If you’ll just be patient.
Andrew Womble: (08:50)
I want you to have a full, complete, accurate view of what transpired and what the deputy saw that particular day. Right there. Stop. Once again, I will repeat. You’re looking at Deputy Llewellyn’s body cam, and he went around the Pasquotank County truck. He approached from the passenger side. Deputy Bishop, Sergeant Meads were directly in front of Brown’s vehicle, and Deputy Morgan approached last and positioned himself between Deputy Bishop and Sergeant Meads. Brown was holding his phone when law enforcement approached. You skipped. Can you back up? Back up. All right. Brown threw the phone down and began to rapidly back his car away from the officers. Have you taken it out? Am I completely offline at this point? You need to back up to about five slides. If you’ll leave it right there. You’re at photo 11. If you would back up to photo six. All right. Thank you. Andrew, at this point I will just give you the nod to move forward. Okay?
Andrew Womble: (11:24)
Brown threw the phone down and began to rapidly back his car away from the officers. Deputy Lunsford’s hand was still on the driver’s door handle as Brown’s car reversed, and the handle was snatched out of his hand. At this moment, Deputy Lunsford yelled out, and Deputy Lunsford was pulled over the hood of Brown’s vehicle where his body and his safety equipment were struck by the vehicle. Deputy Lunsford’s left arm was squarely on the hood. Deputy Lunsford took evasive action to get out of the way of the front left tire of Brown’s vehicle, and law enforcement commands became more heated with profanities shouted for Brown to stop the car. Brown ignored the officer’s commands and backed his car until he was blocked by the rear of his residence. Continue. Continue. Right there.
Andrew Womble: (12:34)
Brown then put the car in drive and turned the steering wheel left directly at law enforcement officers who had now surrounded his vehicle. Despite this tense situation and the aggressive driving by Mr. Brown, no law enforcement officer fired a shot. As Brown’s car starts forward, Deputy Lunsford was now positioned directly in front of the vehicle, and all officers were shouting commands to stop. Brown ignored the commands and drove directly at Deputy Lunsford. Deputy Lunsford used his left hand to push off of the hood. It was at this moment that the first shot is fired. Deputy Lunsford then spun out of the way to avoid being run over by Brown’s vehicle. According to the North Carolina Justice Academy Forensic Analyst, Casson Reynolds, the first shot was fired by Sergeant Meads and it entered the front windshield of Mr. Brown’s car. Let me say that again. It entered the front windshield of Mr. Brown’s car.
Andrew Womble: (14:18)
Brown’s car continued forward passing Deputy Lunsford, Deputy Morgan and Sergeant Meads, and several shots are heard. One shot entered the passenger window, it struck Brown in the shoulder. Several more entered the rear passenger side door and window. Brown’s vehicle then accelerated across the vacant lot next to 421 Perry Street, and five additional shots entered the rear windshield and trunk of Brown’s vehicle. At this moment, Brown was driving directly at Investigator Johnson, who was positioned on Roanoke Avenue in an unmarked, white van. Lieutenant Judd was positioned on the corner of Roanoke and Perry in an unmarked, white Crown Victoria. Brown’s car narrowly missed striking the van operated by Investigator Johnson who accelerated to avoid the collision. Brown’s vehicle crossed Roanoke Avenue and struck a tree in the residence on Roanoke Avenue and came to rest. The Pasquotank County team gave chase, removed Brown from the driver’s seat and life-saving efforts were immediately begun.
Andrew Womble: (15:49)
At 8:24, deputies notified dispatch of shots fired. Emergency medical services were requested at 8:26 AM. Lieutenant Judd was a supervising officer. He was on the scene at the time of the shooting. Other supervising officers of Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office arrived, including Chief Deputy Fogg, who collected the weapons and cell phones of the officers who fired. All of the following is clearly depicted on the body cameras that were operational and functioning properly on April 21, 2021. They were being worn by the aforementioned Pasquotank County Sheriff’s officers. The total length of officer involvement with Mr. Brown from the time they exited the vehicle until Mr. Brown was removed from the vehicle is 44 seconds. I’m now going to show you the four body cam videos that depict law enforcement activity with Mr. Brown on that day. At approximately nine o’clock on April 21, 2021, I received a call from Special Agent in charge, Masha Rogers, with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, informing me of the officer involved shooting. Sheriff Tommy Wooten and I jointly requested the SBI conduct a thorough investigation of the shooting. Shortly after speaking with Special Agent Rogers, I contacted District Attorney Investigator, John Young, to meet me at our office here in Elizabeth City, and to proceed with me to the scene of the incident. We viewed the scene, and later that day I met with Sheriff Wooten, Special Agent Rogers, members of the SBI team that would conduct the investigation. On May 11th, 2021. The SPS the lead case agent, Jason Godfrey, began releasing the SBI report gathered to the District Attorney’s Office. I immediately began review of the written SBI reports and other documents as investigated by the SBI. I reviewed the SBI investigation, which included interviews of the deputies involved with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office, interviews of civilian witnesses, interview of Dr. Karen L. Kelly, a forensic pathologist at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville, photograph-
Andrew Womble: (22:03)
Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville. Photographs of the scene, ballistics and trajectory report of casing [inaudible 00:22:09], analysis of weapons and shell casings. The law enforcement personnel records of the deputies involved, video footage of the body cameras at the scene, and the crime scene report. In addition, I have met or had telephone contact with Jason Godfrey practically every day, since April 21, 2021. Agent Godfrey. And I viewed the trajectory rod analysis performed by Agent Candace Pegram and assisted by Agents Rob Evans and Steven Style on April 22nd, 2021. Further, I sought advice and counsel from numerous elected district attorneys around the state who have had recent experience with officer-involved shooting cases.
Andrew Womble: (22:58)
There are 14 houses near 421 Perry Street, and each location was canvased for evidence and witnesses. Four civilians provided statements to law enforcement. Ms. [Dimetria 00:23:09] Williams stated she lived in the vicinity of 421 Perry Street and heard gunshot from inside of her residence. She further stated that after hearing the first shot, she exited her home, went down the street, and saw the remainder of the shots being fired. Ms. Williams’ home is approximately a 100 yards away from 421 Perry Street. The total lapsed time from the first shot to the last is five seconds, calling into question Ms. Williams’ statements regarding witnessing the shooting.
Andrew Womble: (23:39)
The second civilian to give a statement was Daniel [Sturtevant 00:23:41]. Mr. Sturtevant stated the incident occurred prior to 8:00 AM. He stated he heard officers shouting commands. At which time he walked to his window. Sturtevant stated the officers were firing into the car while they were giving Brown commands to get out.
Andrew Womble: (23:57)
The third civilian to give a statement was Ashley [Bechtle 00:23:59]. Ms. Bechtle stated she did not see the initial shots fired, but heard them, and went to her window. She stayed at Brown’s car was heading over Roanoke Avenue and the officers were forceful when removing Brown from the vehicle. Bechtle further stated she heard additional shots after Brown’s vehicle struck the tree, and as officers approached the vehicle.
Andrew Womble: (24:22)
The forth civilian to give a statement was Amber Santiago. Ms. Santiago stated she was in a relationship with Mr. Brown, and stated they had a telephone conversation the night before where Brown stated he believed the police were following him. Ms. Santiago further stated that Mr. Brown said he was going to stay at a hotel rather than staying at his residence at 421 Perry Street. The weapons used by the three Pasquotank County deputies who fired or two Glock 17 handguns and an AR-15 223 rifle. These weapons were seized and provided to the SBI. The SBI recovered 14 spent shell casings, nine from the Glock 17 handguns, and five from the AR-15 rifle. These 14 spent shell casings were recovered from the cement driveway and in the yard adjacent to 421 Perry Street. These 14 shell casings were consistent with the body cam videos and physical examination of Brown’s car, as being fired by the deputies.
Andrew Womble: (25:25)
On April 21, 2021, Mr. Brown’s body was transported to the Medical Examiners Office in Greenville, North Carolina, where an autopsy was performed. The autopsy was conducted by Dr. Karen L. Kelly a forensic pathologist or the Medical Examiner’s Office at the Brody School of Medicine in Greenville, that was done on Thursday, April 22nd, 2021. The autopsy was witnessed by Special Agent [Cowen 00:25:53] with the North Carolina SBI and a written report was produced of the findings. Although the autopsy and toxicology reports have not been finalized at this time, I had telephone contact with Dr. Kelly on May 12th, at which time we discussed her findings. Dr. Kelly determined Brown suffered two gunshot wounds; one to the right shoulder, upper arm, that was non-lethal. And a second wound to the back of the head at the base of the skull, near the hairline. There were three bullet fragments recovered from the wound to the back of the head. Dr. Kelly found multiple abrasions on Brown’s right arm, right leg, and on his back. Dr. Kelly advised me that these injuries were superficial and appeared to be made by shrapnel.
Andrew Womble: (26:48)
Additionally, Dr. Kelly recovered a plastic baggie containing an off-white rock like substance from inside of Mr. Brown’s mouth. The substance is consistent with crystal meth, and was the size of a 50 cent piece, and too large to swallow. Dr. Kelly determined the cause of death to be multiple gunshot wounds. The deputies involved in the shooting incident have no prior excessive force the complaints. The law is clear and long established. The United States Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the North Carolina appellate courts have all held that where officers are attempting to make an arrest, deadly force may be used if it appears to be reasonably necessary to first, protect against deadly force that the arrestee is using to resist arrest, or two, to take into custody a person who presents an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others, unless apprehended immediately.
Andrew Womble: (27:54)
The North Carolina General Assembly has codified this case law, our general statutes at NCGS 15A-401 D2, which I have attached to the press package. The United States Supreme Court has cautioned, prosecutors may not employ the 2020 vision of hindsight, but must make allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split second judgment in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving. The law authorizes an officer to take preemptive action and use deadly force to prevent death or serious injury to himself or herself, provided that the threat assessment is reasonably made. Whenever officers use deadly force to defend themselves or to stop a dangerous fleeing felon, the determination of whether they properly used that force focuses on whether the totality of the circumstances as they appeared to the officers at the time of the killing, were sufficient to create a belief in a reasonable person standing in their shoes, that such force was necessary. In short, assessing the reasonableness of the shooting requires examining the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.
Andrew Womble: (29:15)
Consequently, my focus was on the relevant set of facts, a reasonable officer in the deputy’s position would have experienced. When weighing the degree of force used, that prosecutor must pay careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest, or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Using these parameters, I find that the facts of this case clearly illustrate the officers who use deadly force on Andrew Brown Jr. did so reasonably, and only when a violent felon used a deadly weapon to place their lives in danger. First, when assessing the severity of the crime at issue Andrew Brown Jr. was being served with two felony arrests warrants and a search warrant. The law enforcement officers were duty bound to stand their ground, carry through on the performance of their duties and take Andrew Brown into custody. They could not simply let him go, as has been suggested.
Andrew Womble: (30:35)
Additionally, Brown engaged in dangerous felony level misconduct, as he attempted to flee from law enforcement officers. The decision to flee, which Brown made on his own, quickly escalated the situation from a show of force to an employment of force. Brown’s precise speed in attempting to flee and striking Deputy Lunsford is uncertain, but that he drove recklessly and endangered the officers is not uncertain. Therefore, I find that Brown’s actions and conduct were indeed dangerous by the time of the shooting. Second, Brown was actively resisting arrest and attempting to evade arrest by flight before, during and after the shooting. All officers had been briefed on Brown’s previous interaction with law enforcement, including his propensity to resist and barricade himself. Briefings also informed these officers of Brown’s prior criminal history, and the fact that he has attained the habitual felon status. Brown acted consistent with law enforcement intelligence, and actively resisted arrest and attempted to flee. Third, and most importantly, Brown posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers and others.
Andrew Womble: (31:51)
Mr. Brown’s conduct did not merely risk injuring officers by the time of the shooting, Brown had made two aggressing driving moves, which caused his vehicle to contact Deputy Lunsford on both occasions. When the officers approached Brown with their guns drawn, his response was to maneuver his car and flee. Brown was on deterred by the officers yelling for him to, “Stop. Show me your hands,” or by Deputy Lunsford, attempting to open the driver’s door. Even after backing into a corner with no escape but to maneuver his vehicle directly at the officers, Brown continued the felonious assault by using his vehicle as a deadly weapon, and made contact a second time with Deputy Lunsford. Law enforcement officers, particularly Deputy Lunsford were on foot and directly in the path of the vehicle being operated by Brown. Lieutenant [Judd 00:32:47] was located on the corner of Roanoke Avenue and Perry in a white, unmarked Crown Victoria and Derrick County Officers Sergeant Ruth and Investigator Johnson were operating unmarked vehicles in the area to assist. All of these officers were potentially at risk from Brown’s operation of the vehicle.
Andrew Womble: (33:06)
Brown threatened the life and safety of the officers on the scene and any possible civilian bystanders, giving a reasonable officer, a compelling reason to end the encounter. The law does not require officers in a tense and dangerous situation to wait until the moment they suspect uses a deadly weapon to act to stop the suspect. The shooting of Brown was justified to prevent potential harm to those living near where the incident occurred, as well as other pedestrians, support deputies, and the deputies who were in front of Mr. Brown law enforcement officers are required to instantaneously evaluate and employee force against possible criminal suspects to thwart apparent dangerous to citizens in themselves. Officers must perceive, evaluate, decide, then act often in a matter of seconds. The deputies in this case perceive a threat and immediately fired their weapon to neutralize the threat.
Andrew Womble: (34:02)
The perceived danger to the officer must only be apparent, not actual, in order to justify the use of deadly force. Apparent danger is such that it would cause a reasonable person to believe that he or others were in danger of death, or great bodily harm. Although there is evidence of actual danger to the officers under the law, there was also apparent danger. From the evidence, it reasonably appeared to the deputies. There was a sufficient basis for self-defense and defense of others. The facts in this case demonstrate the presence of apparent danger to the officers. An officer may exercise such force if he believes it to be necessary, and has reasonable grounds for such belief. An officer acting in self-defense is presumed to have acted in good faith. Federal courts have held that the Constitution simply does not require police to gamble with their lives in the face of a serious threat of harm. As the United States Supreme Court has observed the calculus of reasonableness must allow for the fact that law enforcement officers are often forced to make split second judgements in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.
Andrew Womble: (35:15)
From a review of the body camera video from the scene, there is evidence that multiple shots were fired in rapid succession by three deputies. There is no evidence that the number of shots fired by the deputies was excessive, but even if there are an excessive number of shots, the question is whether the perceived threat has been neutralized for the safety of law enforcement officers present. In this case, the deputies used the amount of force deemed reasonably appropriate by them to neutralize a perceived threat. Based upon my review of the facts of this case, I have determined that the shooting of Andrew Brown on April 21st, 2021 was justified, to protect the safety and lives of the deputies on the scene.
Andrew Womble: (35:57)
The deputies that fired the fatal shots perceived and actual and apparent threat, evaluated the situation in seconds, decided, and acted. The deputy’s actions appear reasonable under all circumstances of the case. The deputies face both actual danger and apparent danger, as perceived by them on the scene. This apparent threat was reinforced by Brown’s dangerous and felonious use of a deadly weapon. As tragic as this incident is with the loss of life, the deputies on scene were nonetheless justified in defending themselves from death or great bodily injury. There was insufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to show that any of the deputies acted in a manner that was inconsistent with their perception of an apparent threat. In fact, my review of the incident indicates there is no evidence that the deputies who fired the fatal shots acted in any manner that is inconsistent with the threat they perceived, and certainly no evidence that the deputies acted in any way contrary to, or in violation of North Carolina law.
Andrew Womble: (36:56)
I appreciate the investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations District Field Office. I have shared this conclusion with Sheriff Tommy Wooten, a special agent in charge, [inaudible 00:37:07] Rogers, that no officer will be criminally charged. The officers’ actions were consistent with their training and fully supported under the law in protecting their lives, and this community. Confrontations between police and citizens in which deadly force is used are among the most important cases the District Attorney’s Office will ever handle. My prosecutors and I have a duty to objectively analyze the totality of the evidence and circumstances, and that means we must face difficult issues which have been discussed at length in this report.
Andrew Womble: (37:48)
It is my sincere prayer that no one is ever killed by law enforcement, but I also pray that law enforcement are never placed in the position of having to make the decision to use lethal force to protect themselves, or innocent lives around them. I want our community to understand that this office put significant effort into ensuring that this decision was based on the facts, the evidence, and the law, and not on public opinion. In describing the legal analysis and the basis for the decision in this case, I find myself, unfortunately, in the position of correcting misinformation that has been shared both on social media, and in the news media. People make claims on camera that were knowing falsehoods and we’re directly refuted by the body camera video. The public might then wonder why more information was not released to refute these untrue statements.
Andrew Womble: (38:55)
I have always asserted that my office would strive towards transparency, but I need everyone to understand that among my highest priorities is also protecting the integrity of every investigation, releasing information before any investigation is complete can tank the case, preventing an objectively, verifiable investigation, and perhaps even the possibility of prosecution. In an ongoing investigation details are closely guarded to help measure the truthfulness of witnesses, and should someone be charged, preserve the defendant’s right to a fair trial. I know that a lack of accurate information is frustrating to the public and the media that operate on a 24 hour news cycle, but in this age of instant media and the impulse to immediately form an opinion, I’m asking that as we move forward, we remind ourselves that in these cases, we should not jump to conclusions until all the facts are out.
Andrew Womble: (40:03)
I will always be guided by my oath of office by the United States and the North Carolina Constitution, and the North Carolina general statutes. Justice demands nothing less. Thank you. Yes, sir?
Speaker 1: (40:25)
Do you think all the facts [inaudible 00:40:29] you told us that you don’t know how fast the car was going, whenever the car was decelerating or accelerating, and that the still images you showed us told a different story before the first shot was fired. Once you put the video in motion, it looked like Brown was turning away from the officers.
Andrew Womble: (40:53)
I’m sorry. Your question is?
Speaker 1: (40:55)
How do you respond to that?
Andrew Womble: (40:56)
What was the question?
Speaker 1: (40:58)
Are you sure all the facts are in? You said you don’t know if the car was decelerating or accelerating.
Andrew Womble: (41:04)
I know that all of the facts that I needed to make this decision are in.
Speaker 1: (41:08)
Well, isn’t that important? That’s important-
Andrew Womble: (41:12)
Yes, the facts-
Speaker 1: (41:14)
If you look at the video, if you look at the video in motion, it looks like he’s turning away before the first shot is fired. That’s important.
Andrew Womble: (41:21)
Sir, there are several cases, there is a litany of cases in our American jurisprudence, where shots are fired into still cars, cars that aren’t moving. So the speed at which Mr. Brown is moving at the officers, there is one particular case, Oh, it’s Robinson versus [inaudible 00:41:48]. In that case, they found that the car was moving one to two miles an hour at the officers. So the speed at which the car was moving, not relevant in my determination.
Speaker 1: (41:59)
But, if he was decelerating-
Andrew Womble: (42:00)
I’m going to move along. Thank you. [crosstalk 00:42:02] Yes, sir?
Speaker 2: (42:04)
Can you be certain that he is using that car as a weapon? One of the videos, as [inaudible 00:42:07] points out, it doesn’t seem that clear that he’s not trying to get away, that he’s not turning away from the officers. How can you be so certain that he’s using that cars as a vehicle?
Andrew Womble: (42:18)
As a weapon?
Speaker 2: (42:20)
I mean, excuse me, that he’s using that car as a weapon. I’m sorry.
Andrew Womble: (42:23)
Did you see the officers surrounded the vehicle?
Speaker 2: (42:28)
Andrew Womble: (42:29)
There was no escape, but at the officers, you’re not allowed to drive over police officers.
Speaker 1: (42:34)
But he turned away. If you show the video again, he turned away-
Andrew Womble: (42:36)
[crosstalk 00:42:36] Yes, sir?
Speaker 3: (42:37)
Sir, I presume that the deputies were interviewed as part of this investigation.
Andrew Womble: (42:41)
Yes, they were.
Speaker 3: (42:42)
Can you speak to what they told the investigators?
Andrew Womble: (42:46)
About what they perceived?
Speaker 3: (42:48)
Andrew Womble: (42:49)
I will tell you this, I will tell you that each one of the deputies that fired their weapons stated that they fired because they perceived a threat to Deputy Lunsford and Deputy Swindell who was only other side of the vehicle.
Speaker 3: (43:04)
And if I may, it’s going to be a technical question, but there will be questions about the video and you releasing it in this format, and your decision to release it now, did the Judge approve this, or technically, how are you able to present this to the public now?
Andrew Womble: (43:18)
All right. So this is actual display, I’m not releasing the video. This is done. I know that you have it at this point, but yes, I did speak with the Judge. We talked about that. I am not once again, a custodian of the record. Anything in my office is not public record by statute, so at this point, because I have made the charging decision that I made, I can display the information. If I had decided to charge, I would have then had to release this to other people, that being the attorneys for the defendants in the case.
Speaker 3: (43:55)
So, can the media get the video that you in the presentation?
Andrew Womble: (44:01)
Any other release- of this.
Speaker 4: (44:02)
… the presentation?
Andrew Womble: (44:02)
Any other release of this will be done through the courts. Okay?
Speaker 5: (44:08)
[Crosstalk 00:44:08]. Have you set a date, a hearing date? Or have you spoke with the judge about a hearing date for when there might be a release or discussion of a release?
Andrew Womble: (44:16)
Speaker 5: (44:17)
Have you asked for that?
Andrew Womble: (44:18)
I have not.
Speaker 5: (44:18)
Do you plan to ask for that?
Andrew Womble: (44:20)
Speaker 6: (44:20)
Sir, could you tell us, are all seven deputies are back on the job?
Andrew Womble: (44:28)
I cannot answer that. I do not believe that all seven deputies are back on the job.
Speaker 6: (44:29)
Are there any concerns-
Andrew Womble: (44:29)
But I cannot tell you that for sure.
Speaker 6: (44:30)
Any internal reprimands for them?
Andrew Womble: (44:32)
So, you’re asking me this question and I’m sure, for the benefit of everyone else, I don’t have anything to do with the Sheriff’s office internal investigation. I’m not responsible for whatever administrative and/or civil actions come after this. I’m only responsible for the criminal side. So, I can’t speak intelligently to the question that you’re asking, whether there will be any further administrative proceedings after this.
Speaker 7: (44:59)
You talked about falsehoods in the way the video was portrayed. Why do you think that is? I mean, it is hard to look at these videos and see exactly what you’re explaining, unless you watched it multiple times and maybe somebody is actually explaining to you where everybody is located.
Andrew Womble: (45:16)
Speaker 7: (45:17)
Do you think it’s perception? Obviously, that’s something you’re very concerned about.
Andrew Womble: (45:25)
Do I think that people can see what they want to see? Absolutely. I would hope that attorneys, licensed attorneys who are bound by the same oaths and the same rules of professional conduct that I am, would conduct themselves a little differently. Family members who are grieving, who deserve our sympathies, sure. Everyone can perceive something differently. And, until you break it down frame by frame, some of the actions are pretty hard to see.
Speaker 8: (46:02)
Is your opinion that the Brown family attorneys deliberately or intentionally-
Andrew Womble: (46:06)
I’m not saying that. I’m saying that there were falsehoods made. You can draw whatever inference you want. [Crosstalk 00:46:12]. Hang on one second.
Speaker 9: (46:13)
Just to try to put a button on this. We saw the video and it definitely appeared that Mr. Brown was trying to get away and not going directly at any officer that we just saw. Is there something else that maybe you have seen to help you come to that conclusion other than what you showed us today?
Andrew Womble: (46:35)
Okay. Let me ask you this.
Speaker 9: (46:37)
The wheels were turned away from the officers.
Andrew Womble: (46:39)
Did you see the officer put his hand, his left hand, on the hood of that vehicle?
Speaker 9: (46:44)
Yes. As the car was turning away, Mr. Womble.
Andrew Womble: (46:47)
Yes. Did you see the tracks in the dirt?
Speaker 9: (46:51)
Andrew Womble: (46:52)
Okay. If that car is on pavement, that officer is run over.
Speaker 10: (46:55)
Can you replay the video?
Speaker 9: (46:57)
But the car wasn’t on-
Andrew Womble: (46:59)
I’m not going to. I’m not going to replay it.
Speaker 11: (47:00)
What do you say to protesters that may feel like these officers could have moved out of the way in this scenario. I know a lot of protesters may be taking to the streets after this. So, like what do you say to them in this situation?
Andrew Womble: (47:13)
That’s not the officer’s duty. The officer’s duties were to take Mr. Brown into custody. They simply couldn’t let him go.
Speaker 11: (47:23)
And just another scenario, people have seen people being let go. And, in this situation, I know you’re saying you couldn’t have been let go. Could he have been let go and you got him at another time in a less dangerous way by chance, do you believe?
Andrew Womble: (47:40)
Are we dealing in the theoretical at this point?
Speaker 11: (47:43)
No. We’re just trying to make sure that… I know what you’re trying to say what the officers did they had to get him at this exact time and moment. But couldn’t have they have moved out of the way instead of getting hit by a vehicle?
Andrew Womble: (47:58)
I think they did move out of the way. At least Deputy Lunsford moved out of the way, but he had to take evasive action to do so.
Speaker 12: (48:05)
I have a follow-up to that. I mean, you said earlier that they had a duty to carry out the warrant that they had to take him in. Can you elaborate on that though? Why couldn’t they have let him go in that moment and follow it up later?
Andrew Womble: (48:22)
Law enforcement officers are duty bound the same way… well, not exactly the same way, but in the sort of same fashion that I’m duty bound by oath. That was their job on that particular day. They had a judicial warrant. They had an officer telling them to take Mr. Brown into custody. So, Mr. Brown’s response to that was to flee.
Speaker 12: (48:44)
I understand that. But-
Andrew Womble: (48:45)
So, what you’re asking-
Speaker 12: (48:46)
In the past, even if it requires-
Andrew Womble: (48:49)
What you’re asking is that law enforcement not act upon the judicial directions of a search warrant and give way to citizens when they decide they don’t want to be taken into custody.
Speaker 13: (49:06)
Why not catch up to him later?
Andrew Womble: (49:07)
Why not take him in right then?
Speaker 13: (49:08)
Because it was clearly a volatile situation. Why not catch up to him later?
Andrew Womble: (49:12)
And it would have not have been volatile later?
Speaker 13: (49:14)
Also, when he was escaping, have officers took into consideration that people around the situation, the houses, is there any indication of the bullets going through the houses as well?
Andrew Womble: (49:26)
Yes. That’s why they attempted to do this the night before. And they wanted to do it the night before and take him into custody when he was in the house. They anticipated, when they left, that Mr. Brown, when he pulled up beside the car, would actually go inside. But he never did. He stayed in the car.
Speaker 13: (49:43)
Now, when he was fleeing away, the officers still shot as he… how do you justify that as he’s fleeing away from the officers. And the officers were kind of putting everybody else in danger while shooting at him towards the other houses.
Andrew Womble: (49:57)
And I would say that Mr. Brown was putting everybody else in danger as well. [Crosstalk 00:50:00].
Speaker 14: (49:59)
You said there were 14 spent shell casings.
Andrew Womble: (50:04)
Speaker 14: (50:04)
Did all of that hit the car or Mr. Brown? Or were there some scattered throughout the neighborhood?
Andrew Womble: (50:10)
There were a total of 14 on the vehicle. There was one shot that we believe ricocheted and was found in a house.
Speaker 14: (50:21)
In a house?
Andrew Womble: (50:23)
Speaker 7: (50:24)
Did you ever consider… I know there were calls from the attorneys for the family of appointing a special prosecutor. Were you concerned that you might be too close to these deputies, that you work with them on a regular basis? I mean, did you feel confident that you could handle this investigation and not be biased?
Andrew Womble: (50:43)
Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m elected by the people of the first judicial district to do exactly this job. A special prosecutor or outside counsel is not accountable to the people of this judicial district. I am.
Speaker 14: (51:00)
But that is an independent viewer of things like this.
Andrew Womble: (51:03)
Speaker 7: (51:03)
You made a point of saying that you’re not taking the public opinion into account here, that you’re just simply weighing things on the block. Why bring that up? Do you feel like public opinion turned against you here?
Andrew Womble: (51:16)
No. I want the community to completely understand that the right to protest is certainly important. The need for information is important, the transparency aspect, accountability of my office. But in these particular cases, I am basing the decision on the facts, the evidence, and the law, and nothing else.
Speaker 8: (51:45)
Have you spoken to Andrew Brown’s family about your decision today?
Andrew Womble: (51:46)
I have not, and that is unfortunate. It’s not the way that I would normally want to do this.
Speaker 8: (51:49)
Why haven’t you?
Speaker 5: (51:49)
Why haven’t you right now?
Andrew Womble: (51:52)
Our original discussions immediately after this occurred with Mr. Brown’s attorneys did not go well. There was a second meeting with the family in which the attorneys were not present. Obviously, any party that is represented by counsel, I have to be very careful in dealing with attorneys before I deal with parties. I was unable to do so. And, at this point, the relationship is just constrained to the point that I did not speak with them. I’ll be happy to talk with them at length after this is over. Yes, sir. This man has been very patient.
Speaker 15: (52:25)
These two men have been waiting for longer.
Andrew Womble: (52:27)
Speaker 16: (52:28)
Specifically the part where he was driving across the field towards Roanoke Avenue.
Andrew Womble: (52:31)
Speaker 16: (52:32)
For the officers to continue shooting at that point, in your mind, why is that justified? Is it because the unmarked vehicle was across the street on Roanoke Avenue? Or was it because they could keep shooting because of the initial incident in the driveway?
Andrew Womble: (52:46)
It is both. So, once a threat is perceived, and our case law is very clear on this. Once a threat is perceived and the officers fire the first shot, if the first shot is justified, the last shot is justified until the threat is extinguished. That is the Plumoff vs. Ricard case. It’s a United States Supreme Court case, and it is clear. In the Plumoff case, the officers fired three shots into a stationary vehicle. The vehicle then backed away from officers and sped down the street, at which time they fired 12 additional shots at the vehicle as it sped away. And there were no police officers anywhere in the direct path of that vehicle. Supreme Court found the officer’s actions in that case were reasonable. They said they weren’t even close to being unreasonable. And they did not find even a fourth amendment violation. There has never ever in our American jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has never found a fourth amendment violation when a suspect uses a car as a deadly weapon. Never. Not one. [Crosstalk 00:53:58]. Hold on. Wait a minute.
Speaker 17: (54:00)
Andrew Womble: (54:00)
Wait a minute. One more time in the back. Yes.
Speaker 17: (54:03)
Is the car being used as a deadly weapon no matter how fast it was going, just because it was moving in the direction of the officers at some point? It doesn’t matter whether it was accelerating, just foot off the gas?
Andrew Womble: (54:14)
Yes. In my opinion, at this point, it was employed as a deadly weapon. Now, are you asking me theoretically what, in other cases, can we possibly-
Speaker 27: (54:22)
Like, just in general. It doesn’t matter what speed it was going if it was at all in the direction of the cops.
Andrew Womble: (54:27)
Yes. There are several cases where officers have instructed drivers to shut the car off, the car is stationary. And the simple act of starting the car in violation of an officer’s command makes the car a dangerous deadly weapon that can be used at that point, and officers can shoot. Yes, ma’am in the back.
Speaker 18: (54:50)
The car was exiting the neighborhood, as you say, it was driving towards some unmarked Sheriff’s vehicles, several of the protestors, and we’ve heard comments that the area that they were in was a school zone, and it’s eight o’clock in the morning, a little bit after eight. Was there any consideration into that, the extended neighborhood and being in a school zone?
Andrew Womble: (55:11)
So, the officers, in their comments, did not talk about the extended school zone. Certainly, when I get the leisure, they’re acting in the heat of the moment and I’m looking at it in the cool of the night, so to speak, certainly I would think that Mr. Brown driving this vehicle operating it in this manner, in this particular instance, could put in the lives of school children in danger. Absolutely. That was not listed in the officer’s notes.
Speaker 19: (55:38)
Just to clarify.
Andrew Womble: (55:39)
Speaker 19: (55:40)
Did you get a court order to release this body camera video today?
Andrew Womble: (55:43)
Speaker 19: (55:43)
Isn’t that in violation of the statute, the requirement of a petition of a bodycam?
Andrew Womble: (55:45)
Statute applies to the custodian of the records. I am not a custodian of the records.
Speaker 14: (55:55)
So, can you clarify that-
Andrew Womble: (55:56)
Hang on one second. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 20: (55:58)
Was it your perception that Mr. Brown intended to threaten the officers with the car? Or does that have any bearing on that decision?
Andrew Womble: (56:06)
Was his intention to threaten the officers with the car? That requires me to speculate as to Mr. Brown’s intentions. I think Mr. Brown’s intention was to get away. I think Mr. Brown was fleeing an arrest because Mr. Brown had drugs on his person and in his car. And I think he did not want to get caught with those. So, that’s why I think Mr. Brown was fleeing. The officer’s position around the car is why he drove at them. He had no choice. If he was going to attempt to flee, he had no choice but to drive directly at the officers. When he did that, and he made that decision on his own, he placed their lives in danger.
Speaker 14: (56:50)
So, had he fled and not had deputies in the path, would that have been relevant to your determination in this investigation?
Andrew Womble: (57:00)
Once again, if we’re moving into a theoretical discussion, yes. If there were no deputies in the path, I think I could have looked at this differently. If you will see, when the car backs up and Deputy Lunsford is pulled off of his feet and onto the hood of the car, that aggressive driving moment right there, in my opinion, is a threat to the officers. I believe that they would have been well within their rights to shoot at that moment.
Speaker 14: (57:29)
At that point, Brown used the car as a-
Andrew Womble: (57:32)
As a deadly weapon. Absolutely.
Speaker 4: (57:35)
To clarify again, when he backs up you said Officer Lunsford’s body was pulled to the hood of the car. Were there any deputies, officers behind the car in the direct path of the car as it backs up?
Andrew Womble: (57:46)
Speaker 4: (57:46)
Andrew Womble: (57:47)
Speaker 4: (57:48)
Lunsford is the only deputy that he makes contact with when he backs up.
Andrew Womble: (57:54)
Yes. That is correct. Deputy Swindell was to his right.
Speaker 14: (57:58)
Can I ask a follow up to that question? Because that’s important. You just said he threatened the officer, but he’s backing away from the officer, and The officer is going toward him. So, he’s trying to avoid the officer.
Andrew Womble: (58:09)
You do understand that he was going to be arrested and taken into custody that day.
Speaker 14: (58:13)
Yeah, I know that.
Andrew Womble: (58:13)
Speaker 14: (58:14)
But he wasn’t backing away.
Andrew Womble: (58:15)
Speaker 14: (58:15)
I’m just going up with what you’re telling us here.
Andrew Womble: (58:18)
Speaker 14: (58:18)
You’re sending these messages. You’re saying he was threatening them, but then he’s backing away and it’s the officer going for the car.
Andrew Womble: (58:25)
Okay. When you employ a car in a manner that puts officers’ lives in danger, that is a threat. And I don’t care what direction you’re going, forward, backward, sideways. I don’t care if you’re stationary, and neither do our courts and our case law. Yes, sir.
Speaker 21: (58:45)
Yeah. I’m just wondering, if you’ve had any interviews with these deputies, did they express their fear? Or, in their interview, were they saying, “Yeah. I felt like I could get run over. Did he ever say anything, some of that stuff?
Andrew Womble: (58:59)
Yes. They did, but not to me. I did not interview the officers.
Speaker 21: (59:03)
Okay. But, in their interviews, did they express that concern?
Andrew Womble: (59:05)
State Bureau of Investigation did the interviews, and I read the reports. And, yes. They all stated either they were afraid of being run over or they were afraid of their fellow officers being run over. Yes, ma’am. And I’ll get it to you in just a second.
Speaker 7: (59:21)
You mentioned you can’t use the court of public opinion when making these decisions, and it has to be based on the facts. But yet, you live in this community. This is your community. Are you concerned at how this decision will be received? I mean, we can already hear protestors outside. We can assume that it will not be received well. I mean, is that a concern?
Andrew Womble: (59:40)
So, I believe that there will be folks who are not happy with this decision. When I was appointed the district attorney in 2013 and then ran for this position in 2014 and ran for this position in 2018, I had a full understanding of what the responsibilities and duties of the district attorney are. Sometimes I make popular decisions, such as charging the four inmates and Pasquotank County with capital murder. That was a popular decision. And I make unpopular decisions. And I signed up for all of them, the popular ones and the unpopular ones.
Speaker 14: (01:00:19)
Can you tell us-
Andrew Womble: (01:00:20)
Wait a minute. Thank you.
Speaker 22: (01:00:21)
So, the four videos you showed us, were they included among the videos that the family saw.
Andrew Womble: (01:00:25)
Yes. The family actually saw a longer version of the four. I did not include the portions where law enforcement removed Mr. Brown from the car. I did not think that there was any journalistic need for that. He’s clearly in a lifeless position. Yes, sir, in the back.
Speaker 23: (01:00:49)
[inaudible 01:00:49]. Have you been in touch with the FBI about their investigation?
Andrew Womble: (01:00:54)
No, sir. I have not. The FBI sent a letter to my office very early on requesting the body cam videos. I believe… well, I believe that I know that they have them. They did not get them from me. Sorry. Right here in the middle.
Speaker 24: (01:01:10)
Mr. Brown was driving toward an unmarked van that had law enforcement officer in it while the Pasquotank officers were shooting toward Brown’s car. Obviously, his car passed very close to the unmarked van. Were the shots fired by the Sheriff’s deputies ever putting the other law enforcement officer in the unmarked van at danger?
Andrew Womble: (01:01:30)
He’s clearly in front of that car. The body cam, because of the lens, actually distorts the distance between the officers and the vehicle as they’re shooting. It’s really not that far away. Were they really in danger? No. Were they in the path bullets. Yes.
Speaker 24: (01:01:51)
Can you clarify which officer fired the fatal head shot which killed Andrew Brown and how far away that officer was at which angle?
Andrew Womble: (01:01:58)
I do not know that. Let me explain why. The bullet that was removed by Dr. Kelly from the back of Andrew Brown’s head fragmented. So, what that means, according to Dr. Kelly, is that the bullet was tumbling when it struck Mr. Brown. It was tumbling because it was knocked off his path, either by a headrest, a glass, or some other object inside the car, when it tumbled and hit Mr. Brown in the back of the head, it then splintered into three pieces, making it impossible to determine from what weapon it was actually fired. Now, a metallurgic study could possibly figure that out. It’s not relevant to my decision, and I didn’t need that information. Yes, ma’am in the way back.
Speaker 27: (01:02:46)
Yes. So, you said before that the intention was to arrest. But, in the 14 shell casings that were found that were spent at the scene, is there any question in your mind whether or not why deputies would shoot directly at someone’s head in a vehicle rather than shooting surrounding the vehicle to potentially stop the vehicle and take someone into custody, if that was their proven [inaudible 01:03:13]?
Andrew Womble: (01:03:13)
So, once again, I believe at this point we’re discussing hypotheticals or theoreticals. Mr. Brown’s vehicle shows several multiple shots into the side of the vehicle. There is the one shot in the front windshield that came from Sergeant Meiggs, and then there’s several in the back windshield as the car was moving away. So, there are several shots into the body of the vehicle itself from a very close distance. One could think that that was to disable the vehicle. Was that question asked? It’s not in the officer’s notes. It’s not in there about what they were trying to do other than extinguish a threat.
Speaker 27: (01:03:55)
Will any of those officer’s notes be in the information that you’re releasing today?
Andrew Womble: (01:03:59)
No, ma’am. And that file within my office will stay within my office. That is our policy. I do not release any files because they’re not public record. And that is our stated policy here. I’m doing this only because of the obvious notoriety of this particular case. Man in the back.
Speaker 25: (01:04:20)
So, at what point did you determine that he was using the vehicle as a weapon? Was it when the deputy’s arm was on the hood of the car, or when he put the car into drive?
Andrew Womble: (01:04:29)
You’re asking me, at what point did I make that determination?
Speaker 25: (01:04:32)
Andrew Womble: (01:04:33)
So, once again, the standard of what I need to look at is what a reasonable officer on the scene would have perceived, not necessarily what District Attorney Andrew Womble would proceed, but I’m going to answer your question. Your question is, when do I think he employed the vehicle as a deadly weapon? I believe he employed it as a deadly weapon the moment he did not respond to officers’ commands to show them his hands and get out of the car. When he used the car in contravention of their commands, at that point, he has demonstrated his willingness to use that vehicle in any manner he deems necessary to evade lawful arrest.
Speaker 26: (01:05:20)
Sir. I think that for us at the National, this case especially highlighted the North Carolina law regarding body camera.
Andrew Womble: (01:05:28)
Speaker 26: (01:05:29)
I think it’s also fair to say that video evidence has kind of changed law enforcement and how you’re able to examine cases. I wanted to see your perspective of the North Carolina law regarding the release of body cameras. Was it useful for your office in this case? Is it a useful law? Would you like to see any changes?
Andrew Womble: (01:05:49)
This was the first opportunity that I’ve had to deal with this particular body cam statute. For the purposes of the district attorney’s office and what my duties are in all investigations, all criminal investigations-
Andrew Womble: (01:06:02)
… are in all investigations, all criminal investigations. I found the statute to be very useful. Very purposefully written, very useful. It gives an opportunity for anyone who’s depicted to have an opportunity to view that, and I think that is important. Could that have been done earlier? Possibly, but once again, the statute dictates how petitions are to be filed and requests are to be filed and how they’re supposed to be made. I’m not going to get into whether that was done early on and in the right manner in order to allow the sheriff to make that early disclosure to the family.
Andrew Womble: (01:06:41)
But with respect to criminal investigations, my job, and as I stated, it is of the highest importance. I have to protect the orderly administration of justice in all cases, and that’s mass murders, whether it’s law enforcement being investigated, that’s sexual assault cases, that’s breaking and enterings and petty larceny, and it doesn’t matter.
Andrew Womble: (01:07:04)
So that is my job, and I take it very seriously, and that is why I took the position that I took with regard to this. And I will take it in every instance that involves body cameras or other law enforcement cameras. I want to see it. I want to conduct my investigation. I want it done correctly without taint, without the possibility that other people have seen it and are now going to interject things that we cannot objectively verify again. I want that investigation done properly.
Speaker 28: (01:07:35)
I think some of-
Andrew Womble: (01:07:35)
That protects everybody involved. Not only victims, their families, but potentially the people charged.
Speaker 28: (01:07:43)
I think there’s [inaudible 01:07:44] that statement that you don’t necessarily want to see the sunlight come to these kinds of events and to the public. You’re saying not necessarily, but the public to see these raw events and make their own determinations. Am I-
Andrew Womble: (01:07:57)
I’m not following. You’re attributing something to me. What did you say?
Speaker 28: (01:08:01)
I think some people might feel that what you just said is that you may not necessarily want the sunlight to open up these and these videos to be out in a public place before an individual like yourself is in a determination capability, once they’ve done their investigation. Am I attributing what you say wrong?
Andrew Womble: (01:08:19)
No, I think that is correct. I brought it today for the purposes of accountability and transparency. I think as I said before, and I believe I said this at the hearing, you will get an opportunity to see it. The public has a right to see it. Our courts are open. Our constitution says that the courts in this state are open. So in one of two ways, this would have been exposed. Either I would have exposed it in a court while at trial and you would have had to wait, or I can expose it today because I’m not bringing any criminal charges.
Speaker 28: (01:08:56)
Andrew Womble: (01:08:56)
Hold on one second. I’ll come right back to you, I promise.
Speaker 29: (01:08:58)
Thank you. Can you verify when the deputies were hit what part of their bodies were hit, whether there were any injuries sustained?
Andrew Womble: (01:09:04)
I cannot clarify whether there are any injuries sustained. I do not know that. Deputy Lunsford was struck. From the video, it looks clear to me, he’s struck up the entire left side of his body. I cannot tell, and it does not indicate in his statement whether the car rolled over his foot. He clearly yells. You hear him yell when the handle is snatched out of his hand. He loses his balance. So Deputy-
Speaker 29: (01:09:33)
Was that when he was struck during that?
Andrew Womble: (01:09:35)
That is correct. That is correct. He struck the left side of his body and he moves his-
Speaker 29: (01:09:39)
When he was pulled onto the car.
Andrew Womble: (01:09:39)
Yes, and he moves his left leg out of the way. And yes, his upper body is pulled across the hood of the car.
Speaker 29: (01:09:46)
Is that the only contact, physical contact with the deputy?
Andrew Womble: (01:09:47)
No. The second physical contact is when the car is moving forward. Deputy Lunsford then puts out his left hand to brace himself and spins his left leg again up and around to get out of the way. I’ll come back to this gentleman.
Speaker 9: (01:10:00)
Mr Womble, you talked about the relationship with the attorneys for Andrew Brown’s family. You talk about you called it difficult. You said you had to be careful. What did you mean by that? And with you admitting that your job is difficult and you take on the tough cases, why not do more to try to reach out and communicate with those attorneys? Because they are speaking to the masses, if you will, but we’re not hearing a lot from you. So why not try to really spend some time with the attorneys? Talk about that relationship and the problem that you say there is there.
Andrew Womble: (01:10:37)
So we had a meeting very early, possibly the second day, maybe April 22nd, with attorneys involved in the case. After I met with the attorneys, they held a press conference and disclosed information that we had had a discussion. It was my belief that that conversation was going to be private between us and we were going to have a working relationship. Once the rules of the game changed, then I knew I had to protect the integrity of the investigation and keep the information that I had within my office.
Andrew Womble: (01:11:15)
Attorneys in this case who are purporting to represent the family aren’t licensed to practice law in this state. So in order to represent someone in the state of North Carolina, you must either be a licensed attorney in this state or admitted pro hac vice. To my knowledge, there were several attorneys who were purporting to represent members of a family who were not either one of those things, either licensed attorneys or admitted pro hac vice. So I can’t discuss with them.
Andrew Womble: (01:11:46)
And third, when a person … I have an ethical obligation not to deal with someone that I know is represented by counsel without dealing with counsel. So that put a barrier between myself and the Brown family, one that I think, in all honesty, we could have done a better job to repair that relationship prior to this. And it’s unfortunate, and I don’t like the way that played out.
Andrew Womble: (01:12:13)
Speaker 30: (01:12:13)
The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office has a use of force policy regarding moving vehicles.
Andrew Womble: (01:12:16)
Yes, it does.
Speaker 30: (01:12:16)
I’m looking at it now. It says, “Shots fired at a moving vehicle involve additional considerations and risks now rarely effective. When feasible, deputies should take reasonable steps to move out of the path when approaching a vehicle instead of discharging a firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants.” Did that play any role into your decision today and were you aware of that?
Andrew Womble: (01:12:35)
I am aware of it. I have a copy of it, and no, it did not. In the back.
Speaker 31: (01:12:38)
Following onto what I asked earlier, you said the duty of the officers was to arrest Brown, which is why they couldn’t move out of the way and let him go in this situation. Have you seen other situations where officers were going to serve a search warrant and they let that person go because the situation got too dangerous or because they couldn’t arrest him at that time?
Andrew Womble: (01:13:00)
No, right off the top of my head, I cannot.
Speaker 31: (01:13:01)
And why did you not-
Andrew Womble: (01:13:02)
I cannot think.
Speaker 31: (01:13:02)
Why was that not a part of your decision, the law that Zach just mentioned about?
Andrew Womble: (01:13:09)
That’s an administrative policy. It’s not part of the criminal statute and what I need with respect to determining criminal liability or criminal negligence. That’s administrative only. Yes, sir, in the back.
Speaker 32: (01:13:20)
Just to clarify. This might be an obvious question for you, but if anybody’s unhappy with your decision today, is there any other recourse or redress that they have, or is this it?
Andrew Womble: (01:13:30)
The ballot box.
Speaker 32: (01:13:34)
What would you say to the … Do you have anything that you’d like to say to the Brown family now and their representatives now?
Andrew Womble: (01:13:41)
I think that would be self-serving to do that right now. I will reach out to the Brown family and I’ll have that private conversation, if they want to have it. Yes.
Speaker 33: (01:13:48)
Do you think the-
Andrew Womble: (01:13:50)
I’ll move around. I’m sorry.
Speaker 33: (01:13:52)
Do you think the videos should be released in their entirety so the public can take a look and make decisions for themselves? Because it’s hard to see with the snippets. I mean, you know.
Andrew Womble: (01:14:01)
In their entirety, no. I do not think they should be released in their entirety. I think they should be released, or I see no problem at this point with them releasing any law enforcement involvement with Mr. Brown. Anything after that, it really falls under the personnel policy. If it doesn’t have any involvement with Mr. Brown, then I think that should be redacted.
Andrew Womble: (01:14:25)
Let me work my way around. Yes, sir, in the back.
Speaker 34: (01:14:27)
Just wanted to go back to the moment where you were saying about you didn’t care if the car was stationary, moving sideways, backwards. But for officers to use deadly force because simply a person is in the vehicle, what does … That precedent. What stops lethal force from being used from someone who’s not pulling over during a traffic stop or other things of the like?
Andrew Womble: (01:14:52)
Well, there are three factors that law enforcement should consider when engaged in that. And number one is the severity of the crime at issue. So once again, when I was discussing that we have moved from the facts of this particular case into a theoretical discussion about use of force. So can I foresee an instance in a traffic stop where a person does not obey commands of law enforcement and they were to employ deadly force? For example, a crash or attempting to maneuver someone’s vehicle into a crash. I would call that pretty deadly and they do it all the time. Yes, sir, in the back.
Speaker 35: (01:15:34)
Can you explain again why you’re able to display parts of the video today but not release it? I’m having trouble understanding how [inaudible 01:15:43]. Can you explain that again?
Andrew Womble: (01:15:45)
Okay. Because that particular statute as written deals with a custodian of the record, of which I am not. Okay? I am not a custodian of these records. These records come to me through the custodian’s office as part of a criminal investigation. There’s a separate statute under our North Carolina public records law at 132 4.1, I think. Nothing in my office is public record. So it is within my discretion at that point to release. I would never release or show or display evidence of a criminal case. So now I’m at the point where there is not a criminal case, and I can do this for the purposes of accountability, transparency, and because of the national notoriety of this particular case.
Andrew Womble: (01:16:35)
Yes, sir, in the middle.
Speaker 36: (01:16:35)
A couple of technical legal questions about when an officer is duty bound to execute the warrants, obviously execute the arrest warrant. The search warrants were returned unexecuted. Why is that?
Andrew Womble: (01:16:49)
The house was, in fact … Searched is not a right word. The house was entered. It was cased, for lack of a better word, for officer safety, but was never searched. So that search warrant was never executed on the house. The vehicle that Mr. Brown was driving was one of those vehicles subject to the search warrant, so that was brought in here in the police station. Does that answer your question?
Speaker 36: (01:17:20)
Not entirely. The second vehicle that was on the search warrant. Was that ever searched?
Andrew Womble: (01:17:26)
It was not.
Speaker 36: (01:17:27)
Why was that vehicle and the house not searched?
Andrew Womble: (01:17:28)
It seemed a little bit beyond the scope at that point. There obviously wouldn’t have been any criminal charges brought against Mr. Brown. There wouldn’t be any need to search that vehicle.
Speaker 37: (01:17:40)
The second technical legal question. You said you had talked to the judge earlier in making the decision to disclose some of this video. Was that conversation ex parte with the judge?
Andrew Womble: (01:17:49)
Speaker 37: (01:17:50)
Was that conversation with the judge ex parte?
Andrew Womble: (01:17:56)
Yes, it was. Yes, sir? I’m sorry.
Speaker 38: (01:17:57)
I do appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions.
Andrew Womble: (01:18:00)
Speaker 38: (01:18:01)
Could I go back to the administrative policy, which you said you didn’t consider? But that policy is something that the officers involved should have adhered to, right?
Andrew Womble: (01:18:13)
For the purposes of their employment with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office? You’d have to ask the sheriff. That’s an administrative. I’m just drawing a distinction. I’ve answered the question, and I’m just trying to answer it in a different way.
Speaker 38: (01:18:26)
But it’s a policy that employees should have followed.
Andrew Womble: (01:18:28)
It’s an administrative policy.
Speaker 38: (01:18:29)
Well, what’s the difference if it’s a policy? It’s a guideline.
Andrew Womble: (01:18:32)
Speaker 38: (01:18:35)
You don’t think that was important?
Andrew Womble: (01:18:38)
I didn’t use it for my analysis for criminal negligence is what I said. Criminal negligence is a different standard. Yes, sir, in the hat.
Speaker 39: (01:18:47)
Were there any weapons found in the car and/or was Brown known to carry a weapon with him?
Andrew Womble: (01:18:53)
According to the deputies and the briefing that occurred just prior to the attempted service of the warrants, Brown was not known to carry weapons. That was information that we had received or they had received from various sources of information. And there was not a weapon found in the vehicle. There was a couple of baggies with off-white rock-like substance in the car, on the driver’s side in the door. They have been sent off to the lab. Yes, sir, in the back.
Speaker 40: (01:19:25)
You had said that the policy didn’t apply to [inaudible 01:19:28] criminal negligence. Some cities have policies that say do not shoot at a moving vehicle unless another type of deadly force is being used at the time. If you had that policy in place in Pasquotank County, would that have made a difference in this investigation?
Andrew Womble: (01:19:41)
So if the Pasquotank policy had explicitly stated we don’t shoot into a moving vehicle?
Speaker 40: (01:19:47)
Unless another type of force is being used-
Andrew Womble: (01:19:48)
Speaker 40: (01:19:48)
… other than the vehicle.
Andrew Womble: (01:19:50)
Would that have changed my legal analysis, as far as the … No. No, it would not. These deputies, these officers that involved in this particular case are afforded the same protections as officers in Murphy, in Wilmington, in Raleigh, in Charlotte, anywhere else in the state. And those are the statewide criminal protections of the general statutes and that case law. And that’s what I use, not necessarily to Pasquotank. Yes, ma’am, in the back. Thank you.
Speaker 41: (01:20:14)
I may have missed this, but were drugs found in the car, in his system, anything like that in his house? What it was? I believe you said [inaudible 01:20:14]. Can you break that down for us?
Andrew Womble: (01:20:24)
I can. There were no … Nothing found in the house. The house was not searched. Okay? It was simply for occupants and officer safety the officers went through the house. There were drugs found in the car and they were wrapped in a baggy in a knot on the driver’s side, and they were found in the door on the driver’s side. There were another baggy stuffed down his throat or in his throat. I didn’t mean to say stuffed. Down his throat, a large, what Dr. Kelly described is very consistent with crystal meth. And then we’re waiting on the toxicology reports. To go beyond that is speculation on my part, and I don’t want to do that. I’m just telling you what the facts are. I don’t know what the toxicology will say. Yes, sir.
Speaker 42: (01:21:18)
You described two reasons for the use of deadly force. First was to protect against the use of deadly force by the person that they’re trying to arrest. The second is to protect an agent or a person who to arrest or stop the person who is a deadly threat to others. In this instance, are you saying that Mr. Brown was a deadly threat to others because of the use of the vehicle or because of the nature of his charges that they were serving the arrest warrant on?
Andrew Womble: (01:21:42)
Simply because of the use of the vehicle, but your point being that he was dealing heroin and fentanyl on a daily basis that is killing people. That’s a point that’s not lost on me. And I understand that. But no, just the use of the vehicle on that particular day.
Speaker 42: (01:21:59)
At that point had no [inaudible 01:22:00], had no calculation in your calculation of use of deadly force there. The charges that they were trying to arrest him on were not under consideration for your analysis of use of deadly force against Mr. Brown?
Andrew Womble: (01:22:13)
Once again, the Supreme Court in [inaudible 01:22:19] set forth various factors that one ought to consider when dealing with these cases, and the very first is the severity of the crime at issue. So it does play into a part.
Speaker 43: (01:22:28)
The baggie that was in his throat-
Andrew Womble: (01:22:30)
Speaker 43: (01:22:30)
That was discovered during the autopsy?
Andrew Womble: (01:22:32)
Speaker 43: (01:22:32)
Any explanation given why this took that long to discover that?
Andrew Womble: (01:22:36)
I will give you my best explanation, and one that’s not included in the report, is because Mr. Brown was clearly deceased on the scene. And while there were life-saving efforts applied to him, I don’t anticipate that he was intubated. I don’t know anything about that. So I’m speculating a little bit here, but because of his condition on the scene, it was minimal life-saving efforts performed, which is why they didn’t find it.
Speaker 44: (01:23:09)
Any read on why you didn’t show more of those life-saving measures at the end? All across the country, people are showing more of these videos and they’re showing how officers are attempting to save lives. We did not see any of that.
Andrew Womble: (01:23:21)
Yes. When the officers removed Mr. Brown from the vehicle to try to do the life-saving efforts, the location of the wound on Mr. Brown’s head is clearly visible. It’s disturbing. It’s not something that I believe I should broadcast Mr. Brown expiring at that particular point. For the purposes of my legal analysis, it didn’t have any bearing on when they use deadly force, whether they tried to save his life afterwards. So I decided to stop it there, because the law enforcement purpose ended at that point, and I just didn’t see any reason to subject Mr. Brown’s family to having those pictures, images of their loved one on the scene in that condition.
Speaker 45: (01:24:22)
Can I circle back on that characterization? Obviously the Brown family, the protesters in the street say that what they saw on the tape was an execution. You’ve said there’s a lot of falsehoods in the statement. So how would you characterize what we saw on the video?
Andrew Womble: (01:24:42)
I spent 10 minutes trying to characterize what I saw on the video.
Speaker 45: (01:24:46)
I know, but-
Andrew Womble: (01:24:46)
I saw law enforcement officers approach Mr. Brown and give him commands. I saw Mr. Brown refuse those commands and employ his vehicle to get away, and at that point, put officer’s lives in danger. I saw the law enforcement officers fan out around the vehicle to stop all of his ingress or egress, all of his movements, Mr. Brown had one choice or he had two choices. He could comply or he could try to flee. And when he tried to flee, he put their lives in danger. In this particular instance, I found the officers were simply doing their job and acted reasonably.
Andrew Womble: (01:25:25)
Thank you all for your time. I appreciate you coming. That’ll conclude-
Speaker 46: (01:25:32)
Andrew Womble: (01:25:32)
No, sir. That’ll conclude my remarks. Thank you.
Speaker 47: (01:25:35)
Thank you, sir. You said you were having some handouts, too?
Andrew Womble: (01:25:41)
I have them right over here. And if you want to leave your email address, I’ll be happy to send them to you. Oh, I’m sorry.