By Chris Boyette, CNN
An amended lawsuit filed by the estate of Andrew Brown, Jr. alleges one of the officers who fatally shot him told investigators that he “altered” his gun after the incident and before the weapon was seized as evidence.
Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, was killed on April 21 by Pasquotank County deputies in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, as they were attempting to serve a warrant for his arrest.
District Attorney Andrew Womble announced in May that the deputies who killed Brown were justified in using deadly force, saying Brown “recklessly” drove at the officers on scene while trying to flee arrest.
The lawsuit alleges that Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Investigator Daniel Meads told the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) during an investigation interview that he “altered the gun he used to shoot at Brown’s vehicle while he was in a dark room inside Brown’s house and before his weapon was confiscated as evidence.”
It is unclear what the lawsuit means by “altered” nor the impact that would have on the investigation.
The suit alleges Meads did not tell SBI investigators about this when they first interviewed him, and only told the investigators after it was seen on another officer’s body camera footage that he had removed his magazine inside Brown’s house.
Meads told SBI interviewers “that he manipulated his magazine while inside Brown’s house in order to see how many shots he fired prior to surrendering his weapon as evidence,” the lawsuit says.
A police detective from the town of Kitty Hawk, North Carlina, who was on the scene at the time told SBI investigators in an interview that Meads asked him to shine a flashlight on him in Brown’s house so Meads “could count the remaining rounds in the magazine of his Glock-17,” according to the lawsuit.
The detective also told SBI investigators Meads “was stressing out about how many times he fired his weapon at Brown’s vehicle,” the lawsuit says.
Meads’ attorney did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Why the lawsuit was changed
Harry Daniels, a lawyer for the Brown estate, said the lawsuit was amended to include specific allegations against the officers involved because more detailed information came to light after the legal team gained access to the SBI investigation files.
The SBI told CNN that the files were not public record and would not allow CNN access.
The lawsuit now names as defendants Meads, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten, Deputy Sheriff II Robert Morgan, Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn and Western Surety Bonding Company, an insurance company for the department.
Attorneys for Morgan and Lewellyn did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, nor did Western Surety Bonding Company. Wooten’s attorney Christopher Geis said he would be filing a response.
“We will be filing an answer to the allegations when the time comes, and that answer will speak for itself,” Geis said.
The warrant wasn’t legal, lawsuit says
The arrest warrant for Brown was unlawful because it was not signed by a judge, the lawsuit claims.
The suit also says the two ranking officers initially on the scene when police confronted Brown — Pasquotank County Sheriff’s sergeants — told SBI investigators in each of their interviews that they did not fire their weapons because they did not see any indication that Brown had a weapon. One of them told investigators he did not think Brown’s car was going to hit him, the lawsuit says.
The suit, which does not name the district attorney as a defendant, claims Womble knew or should have known about various statements made in the SBI interviews cited in the lawsuit.
Womble did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The amended lawsuit makes allegations of assault and battery, wrongful death and wrongful death negligence / gross negligence against all individual defendants.
Plus, it makes allegations of assault and battery against Wooten in his official capacity as sheriff and allegations of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment against Meads, Lewellyn and Morgan.
The suit requests a trial by jury and seeks more than $30 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
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