ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — Attorneys for the family of a Black man who was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies in North Carolina have asked the local prosecutor to recuse himself from the investigation because they say he's too close to the men who fired their weapons.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Bakari Sellers said in statements Monday that District Attorney Andrew Womble's involvement would be a “miscarriage of justice” for Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed April 21 in Elizabeth City.
“The involved officers have close relationships with District Attorney Andrew Womble, making him unfit to lead the investigation into Andrew’s killing,” Crump said in his statement.
In an email on Monday, Womble referred to a previous statement that he would not step aside, stating that he remained “ready, willing and able to fulfill my statutory obligations.”
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has urged that a special prosecutor be appointed. But under state law, the district attorney has to agree to let another prosecutor step in.
Brown was behind the wheel of his car and outside of his house when he was shot. Sheriff's deputies working as part of a regional drug task force were serving a drug-related search warrant at the time of the shooting.
Womble has said that Brown’s car made “contact” with law enforcement officers before the shooting began. But Brown's family and its attorneys have said that Brown died from an unjustified "execution."
Brown was shot five times, including in the back of the head, according to an independent autopsy commissioned by his family.
The letter to Womble from the Brown family's attorneys, which was dated May 5, states that a conflict of interest precludes Womble from investigating and prosecuting the case without “inherent bias.”
“There is no doubt all seven officers involved, including the three shooters, have worked directly with you and your office for years in prosecuting various cases,” the letter stated.