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Attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter On Viewing The Video Of Andrew Brown Jr.'s Shooting


The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Andrew Brown Jr. He's the Black man killed by police in Elizabeth City, N.C., last week. Sheriff's deputies were serving Brown with search and arrest warrants. Brown's family and attorneys shared the findings of an independent autopsy today, which found Brown died from a gunshot to the back of the head. The medical examiner's autopsy report is not yet out. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter is an attorney for Brown's family.


CHANTEL CHERRY-LASSITER: Thank you. Thank you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Let's try to sort through what we know and how we know it. Yesterday, you were allowed to view a short clip of the shooting. This is body cam video from the scene. Afterwards, you called it an execution, and I want to start there. Can you describe what you saw that led you to call it that?

CHERRY-LASSITER: Definitely. The brief, 20-second video that we were allowed to see, which was redacted and officer faces were not visible, nor was all the weapons visible - we were able to see them shooting at Mr. Brown's vehicle as he was trying to get away from the gunfire. So starting from the beginning of the (inaudible) - like I said, again, they did not show us the very beginning of the incident. They showed us, you know, whatever they felt like was pertinent...

KELLY: It was an extract. Yeah.

CHERRY-LASSITER: ...Information. Yeah. Yeah. So his - the sheriff's truck was in front of his vehicle. He had to back out. They were shooting. They were just immediately shooting from the first second of the video. He had to back out to get away from the gunfire. And he went around into a yard to the side near his house, through the grassy area, and was driving away, and they were continuously shooting through the back window. He crashed into a tree, and you could see them still running towards him, shooting even after the car had crashed into a tree.

KELLY: I know that a court hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. This is to address a request from you and other attorneys for the family to release the full, unedited video and whatever else there may exist because there were multiple law enforcement officers on the scene. Is that right?

CHERRY-LASSITER: Yes, that's correct.

KELLY: OK. You also have been able to go through the conclusions of this private autopsy. What did you see in there? And how does it square or not with what you were able to see in that video snippet?

CHERRY-LASSITER: Well, it was - it still - it certified what I was saying that happened. His arms were on the steering wheel. And I'm not sure if you saw the footage from this morning where - the interview this morning where they showed that the bullet went through his arm. And that was in alignment with what we saw with the family - his arms on the steering wheel, and he was being shot. And that - then once he was being shot, he tried to get away and save his own life. You know, you can see that. You can see that in the autopsy that he was, you know, by the - not in the autopsy, I'm sorry. You can see the wounds coming through his arm.

KELLY: This is awful to hear about. And I understand that you are not only acting as an attorney for the family, but you knew Andrew Brown Jr, that he was...


KELLY: ...A friend. So allow me to offer my condolences and ask if you would just tell us a little bit about him.

CHERRY-LASSITER: He was very laid-back. He was very calm, even in situations where most people wouldn't be calm and trying to make sure everybody else was OK, trying to make sure people that was around him was taken care of. He was a very caring father. He continuously cared for his children, loved his children. There's a lot of pictures and things floating around with pictures of him and his children - just a peaceful guy. Even in the video, you see him trying to get away from the officers. He didn't go forward, trying to hit the officers or anything. He was trying to get out of the situation the best way he could.

KELLY: In the minute we have left, tell us what the Brown family wants. I mean, of course, nothing can bring Andrew back, but what are their hopes for what may come from this?

CHERRY-LASSITER: Well, the Brown family at this point is still - they're still seeking clarity. They're still seeking transparency, and the 20-second video was not enough. And we also could not have all of the family members in there that would like to have been in there. So they are still seeking answers...


CHERRY-LASSITER: ...To start the process for justice.

KELLY: All right. And we will watch what answers emerge in the coming days. That is Chantel Cherry-Lassiter. She is an attorney for Andrew Brown Jr.'s family.

Thank you so much for speaking with us.

CHERRY-LASSITER: Thank you. Have a good day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and NPR.org, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.