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Sheriff’s deputy indicted in shooting of unarmed Black man in Spotsylvania County

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A Spotsylvania County sheriff’s deputy was indicted Thursday in the April shooting of an unarmed Black man who was on a phone call with a 911 dispatcher when the officer opened fire.

Deputy David Matthew Turbyfill is facing one felony count of reckless handling of a firearm causing serious injury to 32-year-old Isiah Brown, who Virginia State Police (VSP) said was shot after Brown called 911 to report he was in a dispute with his brother.

The shooting left Brown with about eight gunshot wounds and he has suffered permanent injuries, said Brown’s attorney David Haynes. Six bullets are still lodged in Brown’s body, including one in a leg bone and another in his pelvis, Haynes said. Brown is recovering at home after spending more than a month in the hospital.

Haynes said Brown is grateful Turbyfill was indicted, but the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, should have been more serious. Brown and his family have called for Turbyfill to be fired from the department. Turbyfill has been on administrative leave since the shooting.

“The family’s reaction is that a maximum of five years does not seem like enough given this was a totally unjustified shooting,” Haynes said.

Family of unarmed Black man shot by Va. deputy blames miscommunication among officials

Turbyfill did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Thursday evening and the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office referred all questions about the case to Fredericksburg Commonwealth’s Attorney LaBravia Jenkins, the special prosecutor appointed to handle the case. Jenkins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The indictment by a special grand jury in Spotsylvania County did not offer any new information about the case.

The shooting unfolded in the early hours of April 21 and was captured on a 911 call and on murky body-camera video that was mostly pointed away from the encounter. The VSP said Turbyfill gave Brown a lift home from a gas station about 2:30 a.m. after his car broke down.

A short time later Brown called 911 again to report that he was in a dispute with his brother, the VSP said. On the 911 call that was released by the sheriff’s office, Brown can be heard asking his brother for a gun, a request the brother refused. Brown also said he was about to kill his brother.

He later told a 911 dispatcher he was outside his home and walking down a road. He told the dispatcher at one point that he had a gun, before quickly saying he did not. Brown’s family said he only had a cordless phone that he had used to call police. The VSP also said he was unarmed.

A sheriff’s deputy soon arrived at the scene and can be heard telling Brown to show his hands on the body-camera video released by the sheriff’s office.

The deputy yells: “Drop the gun!”

Another voice yells: “He’s got a gun to his head!”

Soon after, the deputy tells Brown to stop walking toward him and then fires seven shots in quick succession, striking Brown. The deputy rendered aid before Brown was taken to the hospital.

Haynes said the family believes the deputy mistook the cordless phone for a gun and should have known that Brown was unarmed. They blamed the shooting on poor communication between the 911 dispatcher and the deputy.

They have also called for any additional body-camera footage, 911 recordings and surveillance video from the scene to be released.

“There’s a lot to the story we still don’t know,” Haynes said Thursday.

Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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