The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Speaking at funeral, Rev. Al Sharpton calls on authorities to release footage of Andrew Brown’s death

During Andrew Brown Jr.'s funeral on May 3 in Elizabeth City, civil rights attorney Ben Crump called for the full police body-cam video of Brown's death. (Video: Reuters)

An invitation-only funeral for Andrew Brown Jr., the 42-year-old Black man killed by police last month in Elizabeth City, N.C., took place there Monday as mourners continued to grieve his loss and demand police reform.

The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy for Brown at Fountain of Life Church. Others including Brown family attorney Ben Crump and leader of the Poor People’s Campaign, the Rev. William Barber II, also gave remarks about how there needs to be an end to police brutality against Black Americans.

Brown’s death came a day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of killing George Floyd, whose death sparked international outrage over racism and police force.

In his remarks, Crump said he thought the Chauvin verdict would send a message that there would be an end to “unjustifiable killings of Black men,” until he received calls about Brown’s death shortly after the verdict was announced.

“We are here to make this plea for justice because Andrew was killed unjustifiably, as many Black men in America have been killed,” he said. “Because Andrew cannot make the plea for justice, it is up to us to make the plea for justice.”

Family members who have mourned loved ones killed by police — such as Daunte Wright’s mother, two of Floyd’s siblings and Eric Garner’s mother — were also in attendance to support Brown’s family.

Former South Carolina House member Bakari Sellers mentioned the names of others who came to mind after he heard of Brown’s death.

“I was thinking so hard I got tired,” he said. “For Black folk and White folk, Democrats and Republicans watching today, they all need to know we’re tired … tired of the cycle of grief that comes along with being Black in this country.”

In a passionate eulogy, Sharpton called for authorities to release the recording of Brown’s death and to stop what he called the “shell game” they are playing with his family while noting recent cases of police violence that have caused the deaths of Black Americans.

“Before we could get through one 24-hour cycle after the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the lynching by knee of George Floyd, a policeman killed Andrew Brown Jr. — a day that we were getting ready to go to the wake of Daunte Wright,” he said. “From Daunte Wright to Andrew Brown to Breonna Taylor to Ahmaud Arbery to Rayshard Brooks to George Floyd — all of this happening during a pandemic. All within a year. And you want to talk about everything other than what the times demand we talk about.”

Sharpton highlighted the urgency of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and compared it to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the 1960s.

The fatigue of seeing more Black people die of police violence has extended to officers who serve, he said, noting the police officers who testified against Chauvin during his trial.

Black residents of Elizabeth City, N.C., thought police violence happened in other places. Then it came to their town.

Brown’s lengthy criminal history has been part of discussions as a possible explanation for his death, but that’s not a valid reason to take a life, Sharpton said.

The father of seven had been convicted on 12 felony drug charges, 12 charges of driving with a revoked license and 12 other misdemeanors since 1996, WRAL reported. His last conviction was about four years ago, and he was released from prison in August 2018, the station reported.

“Andrew Brown Jr., if he did wrong bring him to court,” Sharpton said. “But you don’t have the right to bring him to his funeral.”

People gathered over the weekend to protest the actions of police in Brown’s death.

Brown was killed by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies on April 21, when officers were executing a search warrant and an arrest warrant on felony drug charges at his home, The Washington Post reported.

His family released an independent autopsy that showed he had been shot five times, with one shot to the back of his head. The state autopsy has not yet been released, which Sharpton called a “con game.”

“Release the whole tape and let folk see what happened to Andrew Brown. … If nothing is on tape, won’t be nothing on it in 45 days,” Sharpton said. “Let the world see what it is to see. If you’ve got nothing to hide then what are you hiding? All we want is justice.”

In a Sunday statement, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy S. Wooten said that everyone wants answers about Brown’s death and declared that he is committed to holding those accountable if any wrongdoing occurred.

“However, we must wait for the investigations to be completed so we have the facts,” he said.

Following Sharpton’s remarks, Barber and the relatives of others who have died in high-profile police violence cases, including Bridgett and Terrence Floyd, pledged their kinship and support to the Brown family.

Bridgett Floyd told two of Brown’s sons that the pain they’re experiencing won’t last forever.

The Floyd family will be available for the Browns now and when the frenzy surrounding Brown’s death dwindles, Terrence Floyd said, as his sister wailed.

“It’s a shame in America that us as Black men, we got to duck and dodge death when it’s not even looking at us,” he said.

Read more:

Family of Black man shot by N.C. deputies says it appears he was ‘executed’ in body-camera footage

Photos: The scene as people gather to protest in Elizabeth City