When the sheriff’s office in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, has plans to serve a warrant in Elizabeth City, officials usually notify the local police about their operation.
That didn’t happen in the case of Andrew Brown Jr., who was fatally shot on April 21 by a sheriff’s deputy carrying out a search warrant related to an ongoing drug case, the Elizabeth City police chief and a city council member told Insider.
“Normally as a courtesy, they would inform the local police and that was not done,” Fourth Ward Councilman Darius J. Horton told Insider by phone Tuesday. “They did not follow normal procedure.”
Police chief Eddie M. Buffaloe Jr. confirmed Horton’s comments in an email to Insider.
“Typically a courtesy is offered, but I was unaware in this particular case,” he said.
Brown Jr., 42, was trying to flee sheriff’s deputies when he was shot several times. An independent autopsy released by his family revealed that Brown Jr. died from a gunshot wound in the back of his head.
The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and the Elizabeth City Police Department both have jurisdiction to carry out law enforcement duties in the community. While there is no requirement that the county office let the local police know what they’re working on, it’s been their typical practice to give a heads up, Horton said.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten disputed that account in a statement.
“The Albemarle Drug Task Force is made up of officers from the Elizabeth City Police Department, the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office, and an investigator from the SBI,” the statement read, referring to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. “Members of the task force investigated and obtained the search warrant for Mr. Brown’s residence and representatives from all three agencies were aware that the search and arrest warrants were being served on the date in question.”
More than 50 percent of the nearly 18,000 residents who live in Elizabeth City are Black, according to census records. But while most of the US experienced waves of Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, Horton said Elizabeth City remained largely quiet.
Brown’s killing, however, has brought national outrage to the city, where Horton said local officials, residents, and visitors are demanding answers and records in connection to the case.
North Carolina has a law that requires a judge to approve the release of body camera footage and the recipients of that footage. A judge there ruled the public release of the body camera footage will be delayed in the Brown case until an investigation into his death is completed.
The FBI confirmed it is investigating the fatal shooting as well.
Brown’s funeral was held Monday in Elizabeth City, where two of his sons spoke of their father’s love for his family. One of them, Jha’rod Ferebee, called his father his best friend.
Horton, who is also a mortician, told Insider that Brown’s seven children live in the community. While they have attended some public events in their father’s honor, Horton said the children are mostly grieving in private as a family.
“I think that it speaks volumes, the way that the county has handled this,” he said. “Not just about this situation, but it seems like they have shown little to no concern about the harmony of the community. Whether that’s at the next election or even the community calling for resignation, something has to be done.”