Civil rights attorneys announced Wednesday they filed a federal lawsuit against a North Carolina sheriff's department and deputies who shot Andrew Brown Jr. in the head as he drove away from them.
The lawsuit seeks $30 million in damages, said attorneys for Brown's family. It also seeks the release of body camera footage and audio files of the shooting that haven't been made public. The suit names the deputies who were at the scene of the shooting, as well as Sheriffs Tommy Wooten and Doug Doughtie, as defendants.
"For Black folk in this country, justice is a verb," said family attorney Bakari Sellers at a news conference Wednesday. "And this is that first step in action."
Sellers said the lawsuit is in honor of Brown's seven children, who are without a father, and his grandson, whom Brown was unable to meet before he died. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is also part of the legal team representing Brown's family.
"We stand in front of this federal courthouse because this is where we believe Andrew Brown will finally be able to get justice," Sellers said.
Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office deputies shot Brown, 42, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, in April while serving an arrest warrant. He was killed by a gunshot wound to the back of the head, a state autopsy found.
North Carolina state autopsy report: Andrew Brown Jr.'s death ruled homicide, shot in head
The lawsuit includes claims of wrongful death, battery and assault. It alleges Brown died by "unlawful and deadly force" as a result of the deputies' "intentional and reckless disregard of his life and safety."
There was no information to suggest Brown had a violent history against law enforcement or others, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit details his family's account of the shooting, saying Brown was "unarmed and posing no threat to law enforcement or others."
It says several law enforcement members confronted Brown at gunpoint while shouting profanities, and Brown "was startled and afraid." As he tried to escape, Brown reversed the vehicle and backed away from law enforcement officers, the lawsuit says. As Brown's vehicle passed officers "at a low rate of speed," multiple shots were fired, according to the lawsuit.
Protests demanding transparency and police accountability swept the streets of Elizabeth City for weeks after Brown's death.
"Today will be 85 days since the people of Elizabeth City have stayed in the streets for justice," said Pasquotank NAACP President Keith Rivers at the news conference Wednesday.
Andrew Womble, the prosecutor handling the case, said in May the deputies involved in the shooting – Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan and Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn – were justified in their use of deadly force. A state investigation found Brown endangered the deputies by using his vehicle as a deadly weapon, he said.
Authorities did not immediately release body camera footage of the shooting, as state law requires a judge's approval for the release. Photos and clips from four body camera videos were played at a news conference in May, showing officers surrounding the vehicle as Brown tried to maneuver away.
Brown drove away because he feared for his life, his family said.
Lewellyn resigned in June and didn't offer a reason for the resignation, Sheriff Tommy Wooten said.
The two other deputies involved in the shooting, Meads and Morgan, returned to work in June after they had been placed on leave after the shooting, Wooten said. The deputies would be disciplined and retrained, he said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Andrew Brown Jr.: Family files $30M lawsuit against sheriffs, deputies