$3 million settlement reached in black man’s death lawsuit

A North Carolina sheriff’s office on Monday announced a $3 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by the family of an unarmed black man who was shot and killed in his car by sheriff’s agents more than a year ago.

The family of Andrew Brown Jr. had filed a $30 million civil rights lawsuit in 2021, saying the man died because officers showed “willful and reckless disregard for his life.”

Brown was murdered on April 21 last year by Pasquotank County sheriffs while serving drug-related arrests at his home in Elizabeth City. Several officers surrounded Brown in his BMW before his car backed up and drove forward. They fired several shots at and into his vehicle. He was killed by a bullet to the back of his head.

District attorney Andrew Womble had told a news conference last year that Brown was using his car as a “deadly weapon,” leading officers to believe it was necessary to use deadly force. But attorneys for the Brown family said the shooting was unjustified because Brown tried to drive away — not in the direction of the officers and that he posed no threat. After reviewing body-camera footage of the shooting, they said Brown was sitting in his stationary car with his hands on the wheel when the first of many shots was fired.

The settlement was approved by the Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners. It includes a $1 million special loan to go along with $2 million from the county’s insurance policy, which was provided by the North Carolina Counties Liabilities Pool, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office to The Associated Press. That amount is at the limit of the policy.

The settlement was reached over the course of several weeks last month in the case overseen by a federal magistrate in the U.S. District Court in Raleigh, the press release said.

The county’s payment resolves potential liability against the defendants and any individual officials named or could be named as defendants in the lawsuit, the press release said. The family has also entered into a provision dismissing all claims against the defendants, namely Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II and three sheriff’s deputies, as well as other potential claims arising out of Brown’s death, the press release said.

Brown’s children will share in the proceeds of the settlement as heirs to his estate, the sheriff’s office said.

“Andrew Brown Jr. was a devoted father who wanted his children to have the things he didn’t have,” said a statement from the five attorneys representing his family. While no arrangement can ever fill the hole his death left in their hearts, this agreement is about providing for those children’s futures, securing their education and making sure their dreams don’t die with their father. ”

At the time, the lawsuit filed by the Brown family was the latest in a series of federal civil rights lawsuits following high-profile police shootings of black and brown people. Many ended in settlements that often involved money but did not mention an IOU. Some lawsuits end up in court, where a jury can award massive settlements that are reduced on appeal.

An independent autopsy commissioned by the family said Brown was shot five times, including once in the back of the head. Relatives who were shown part of the body camera video privately afterwards said Brown was trying to drive away when he was shot. The shooting sparked days of protests in the city in northeastern North Carolina.

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