At the funeral of a black man killed by police in North Carolina, mourners call for reforms


© Reuters. A horse-drawn carriage carries Andrew Brown Jr.’s coffin in Elizabeth City


By Jonathan Drake

ELIZABETH CITY, NC (Reuters) – Family, friends and civil rights activists gathered at a church in North Carolina Monday to mourn Andrew Brown, a black man who was shot dead by sheriff MPs last month, demanding racial justice.

Speaking about Brown’s coffin, Rev. Al Sharpton told the community that the drive to reform the police force in the United States was a chapter in a decades-long struggle by black Americans.

“We have to deal with criminal justice inequality today,” said Sharpton, whose voice boomed in the Fountain of Life church in Elizabeth City. “That is the sign of the times.”

Officials said Brown, 42, was fatally shot and killed during a morning raid on his home on April 21 when the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s MPs tried to serve him with search and arrest warrants.

His death in unclear circumstances has attracted national attention. It came the day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd in a publicly known trial.

Brown’s gunfire and the authorities’ decision not to immediately post a video of the incident sparked suspicion and several boisterous but peaceful demonstrations in Elizabeth City, a riverside community of around 18,000 residents, half of which are African American.

“I know a cheat game when I see it,” said Sharpton. “Let go of the whole tape and let people see what happened to Andrew Brown.”

“If he did something wrong, take him to court,” he added. “But you have no right to take him to his funeral.”

A North Carolina judge on Wednesday denied requests to release four videos from police body-worn cameras of the shooting, making arguments that could jeopardize an active investigation if disclosed immediately.

Supreme Court Justice Jeff Foster said he was delaying the release by 30 to 45 days to allow state investigators and the local prosecutor to complete their investigation.

The reports of the incident from people who watched some of the videos varied widely.

Brown’s family lawyers said a 20-second portion of the video they were allowed to watch showed that he was “executed” by MPs. The family said MPs continued to shoot him in his driveway after he drove away from them.

But Pasquotank District Attorney Andrew Womble said the officers didn’t shoot until after Brown’s car walked up to them and contacted them.

A private autopsy performed by Brown’s family revealed that he was hit by five bullets, including a fatal one on the back of his skull.

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten and Vice Chairman Daniel Fogg said the shooting occurred while MPs were trying to serve Brown’s arrest and search warrants on a drug abuse charge.

(This story adds the dropped word “by” to the heading.)

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