Over 35 local clergy members held up signs in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center on Tuesday that read “truth, transparency and accountability” — what they’re demanding from the Pasquotank County’s Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney Andrew Womble within the next two days.
Two weeks ago, Womble announced that the deputies involved in the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City wouldn’t face charges because an investigation showed that their actions were “justified.”
The deputies shot and killed Brown in the Eastern North Carolina city April 21 while serving search and arrest warrants in a drug investigation. Womble said the officers feared that Brown would hit them or others with his car while trying to flee.
Since then, there have been daily protests in Elizabeth City, and Brown’s family has led the chorus of demands for the release of all of the policy body camera footage from the incident.
Tuesday, clergy members gathered at seven rallies across North Carolina that were organized by nonprofit Repairers of the Breach. All of the rallies began at the same time in Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Asheville, Fayetteville and Elizabeth City.
“We need to know why Andrew Brown took a kill shot at the base of the neck and the back of the skull,” said Rev. Paul McAllister. “Even though he had no weapons, why did Andrew Brown Jr. have to be killed?”
Clergy members statewide are calling for the release of two hours of unedited and unredacted police body camera footage within the next 48 hours, said McAllister, who is the racial equity committee chair on the North Carolina Council of Churches.
McAllister said the clergy also is seeking a U.S. Department of Justice pattern-or-practice investigation into the Pasquotank County’s Sheriff’s Office and Womble’s office.
“Justice for Andrew Brown Jr., that’s why we’re here this afternoon,” he said. “We want truth, we want transparency and we demand accountability.”
‘We pay for it, we can’t see it’
Robert Dawkins, the state organizer for SAFE Coalition NC, said people are going to have to make a choice about whether they want to change the judicial system.
“If you think that you’re just going to get justice from a judge, then I hope Andrew Brown woke you up because judges are also partial,” he said. “They run on a ticket, and while they may not call themselves a Democrat or Republican, they have an agenda.”
Dawkins said he wants judges to give the community members their public records because they pay for body cameras, police cars, firearms and other law enforcement equipment.
“We pay for it, we can’t see it,” he said. “Something has got to change.”
Dawkins referenced how difficult and strenuous the process was to get the video footage of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police killings of Delano Williams, Jonathan Ferrell and Keith Lamont Scott released to the public.
“For all of the names, when are you tired?” he said. “We’re not going to keep coming out here standing and talking.”