ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - The family of a North Carolina Black man shot and killed by deputies has filed a $30 million lawsuit in federal court Wednesday.
"I want everyone watching to understand that for Black folk in this country justice is a verb. This is the first step in acting upon--this is that first step in action," attorney Bakari Sellers said during a news conference Wednesday.
Andrew Brown Jr., 42, was shot to death in April by one or more deputy sheriffs trying to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants. An eyewitness said Brown tried to drive away, but was shot dead in his car. The shooting has prompted protests and demands for accountability in the eastern North Carolina city of about 18,000.
Brown’s estate filed the suit in the United States District Court Eastern District of North Carolina against several law enforcement officers in Pasquotank and Dare counties, including Sheriffs Tommy S. Wooten II and Doug Doughtie, respectively.
The suit alleged that deputies used "unlawful and deadly force against Brown; whereby, Brown was unarmed and posing no threat to law enforcement or others."
Brown’s family attorneys contend that his arrest and search warrants were invalid because one wasn’t properly signed and they stemmed from allegations. They also argued that drug offenses are not considered violent felonies under state law and Brown had no history of violent behavior toward law enforcement or the public.
The lawsuit further stated that when deputies first arrived on the scene, Brown was sitting in his vehicle holding a cell phone to his ear while his "hands were visible to the law enforcement officers."
His attorneys said after officers shouted commands at Brown, he became afraid and backed up his vehicle in an attempt to escape but posed no harm to the deputies. They further stated that a shot was fired at Brown, but he still posed no immediate threat of harm to law enforcement afterward.
Multiple shots then followed.
An autopsy revealed that Brown died from multiple gunshot wounds to his right arm and the back of his head.
Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble called the shooting justified and declined not to charge the officers.
Brown’s family attorneys said Brown’s Fourth Amendment right was violated, stemming from unreasonable seizure and excessive force.
"Justice is upon us. Justice delayed will not be justice denied," attorney Harry Daniels also said in a news conference Wednesday.
FOX Television Stations reached out to Womble’s office for a comment.
The Associated Press contributed to the report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.