North Carolina sheriff's deputies were "justified" in their fatal shooting of a Black man in April because the man ignored their commands and drove his car directly at one of them before they fired any shots, a prosecutor said Tuesday. District Attorney Andrew Womble said none of the deputies involved would be criminally charged in the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.
"The officers' actions were consistent with their training and fully supported under the law in protecting their lives and this community," Womble said during a press conference.
The district attorney said Brown's actions caused deputies to believe it was necessary to use deadly force as they were trying to take Brown into custody while serving drug-related warrants at his house in Elizabeth City on April 21.
Womble said the first shot fired at Brown's car went through the front windshield, not the back as was previously reported.
The prosecutor said he would not release bodycam video of the confrontation between Brown and the law enforcement officers, but he played portions of the video during the news conference.
The three deputies involved in the shooting — Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan and Corporal Aaron Lewellyn — have been on leave since it happened. The sheriff's office said Morgan is Black while Meads and Lewellyn are White.
Four others who were at the scene were reinstated after the sheriff said they didn't fire their weapons.
An independent autopsy released by the family found that Brown was hit by bullets five times, including once in the back of the head. Lawyers for Brown's family who watched body camera footage say that it shows Brown was not armed and that he didn't drive toward deputies or pose a threat to them. Womble has previously disagreed in court, saying that Brown struck deputies twice with his car before any shots were fired.
The sheriff has said his deputies weren't injured.
Attorneys representing Brown's family had called for the deputies to be arrested. "You don't need an investigation when you have a cold-blooded killing. Investigate what," family attorney Harry Daniels said.
The shooting sparked protests over multiple weeks by demonstrators calling for the public release of body camera footage. While authorities have shown footage to Brown's family, a judge refused to release the video publicly pending the state investigation.
Separately, the FBI has launched a civil rights probe of the shooting.