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'It Didn't Change': North Carolina Town Demands Answers After Another Fatal Shooting

At a ballfield a few blocks from where Andrew Brown Jr. was killed by a sheriff's deputy in Elizabeth City, N.C., Daquail Alexander organized a vigil and protest in Brown's memory.
Sarah McCammon
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NPR
At a ballfield a few blocks from where Andrew Brown Jr. was killed by a sheriff's deputy in Elizabeth City, N.C., Daquail Alexander organized a vigil and protest in Brown's memory.

Not even one full day went by after the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for George Floyd's murder before another American Black man was killed by police.

The death of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Wednesday morning followed a fatal police shooting of a Black teenage girl in Ohio on Tuesday. Both shootings remain under investigation, and for many advocates of police reform and racial justice, they're further examples of the nation's relentless trauma.

Marvin Godfrey of Elizabeth City said he knew something was wrong as soon as he woke up Wednesday.

"I heard the gunshots, I woke up to them and my kids screaming," Godfrey said, standing outside with family members and neighbors several hours later.

Godfrey, 32, lives near the home where a Pasquotank County, N.C., sheriff's deputy shot and killed Brown while carrying out an arrest and search warrant. Authorities have released few other details, and many residents and city leaders are pressing authorities for more information.

The Elizabeth City, N.C., neighborhood where Andrew Brown Jr. was fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy was cordoned off for several hours on Wednesday.
Sarah McCammon / NPR
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NPR
The Elizabeth City, N.C., neighborhood where Andrew Brown Jr. was fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy was cordoned off for several hours on Wednesday.

"Partial justice"

Godfrey doesn't understand why serving a warrant ended with a man's death.

"It's unnecessary what's going on — not just here, but all through the country," he said.

Chauvin's conviction this week was good news, Godfrey said, but added that he's tired of the aggressive policing that is killing so many Black people.

"It's kind of partial justice? Because one person has received their due diligence in court," Godfrey said. "But it's still a list of people that have not received that justice. It's just a small step in the right direction."

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II addresses reporters in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Wednesday.
Sarah McCammon / NPR
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NPR
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II addresses reporters in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Wednesday.

Unanswered questions from a "tragic day"

Speaking to reporters during a brief press conference Wednesday afternoon, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II described the events as a "tragic day" and said he has "complete trust" in the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, which is now in charge of reviewing the case.

"We will be transparent and we will take the proper action based on the findings of that investigation," Wooten said.

Wooten said his deputies were wearing cameras at the time of the shooting, but authorities have not released the footage to the public.

Outside an emergency City Council meeting in Elizabeth City, N.C., protesters demonstrate after the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. by county law enforcement.
Sarah McCammon / NPR
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NPR
Outside an emergency City Council meeting in Elizabeth City, N.C., protesters demonstrate after the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. by county law enforcement.

During an emergency meeting of Elizabeth City's City Council on Wednesday evening, council member Darius Horton said it should be released right away.

"We've watched these events unfold in so many other cities where African Americans, where Black men, Black women, have wrongfully died," Horton said. "We can't say that happened here yet. We don't have the information. But it needs to be put out in the forefront — the body cameras. That needs to be released immediately."

Zinia Holley, 56, joined demonstrators in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Wednesday. She said she wants officials to release body camera footage from the fatal shooting.
Sarah McCammon / NPR
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NPR
Zinia Holley, 56, joined demonstrators in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Wednesday. She said she wants officials to release body camera footage from the fatal shooting.

The meeting was closed to the public because of coronavirus restrictions and streamed online. Outside, protesters gathered on the street, their chants penetrating the building, sometimes becoming audible over the webcast.

"It didn't change"

Afterward, Zinia Holley, 56, who lives outside Elizabeth City, joined the crowd marching down the street to a county building.

"I come to support the cause — to save our sons, fathers," Holley said.

Holley said she's been thinking about her own son's safety, and the conviction of George Floyd's killer had brought her some hope.

"I think it gave the whole world hope that it would change," she said. "But as soon as today, 24 hours later, it didn't change. It's getting worse."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.

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