Loved Ones Mourn Andrew Brown Jr.: 'He Kept A Smile On His Face'

May 3, 2021
Originally published on May 3, 2021 8:29 am

Friends and family of Andrew Brown Jr. say they will remember him as a devoted and loving father who wanted to give his children things he didn't always have.

"Andrew was a sweetheart," said Monique Gaddy, 52. "He dropped out of school, but he was very adamant about his children getting an education."

Gaddy, like many in Elizabeth City, a small community in coastal North Carolina, knew Brown since he was a small child.

Brown, 42, was shot and killed by Pasquotank County sheriff's deputies on April 21. The shooting is under investigation by the FBI and state authorities.

Brown will be remembered with a private funeral service Monday in Elizabeth City, where he grew up surrounded by a large extended family.

One of his aunts, 72-year-old Lillie Brown Clark, said "Andy Jr.," as she called him, was a playful child who loved to tease and entertain his cousins.

"He told all kinds of jokes — and some of his jokes came out of things he was doing himself, but he could turn it around and make it something funny," Brown Clark said.

Brown's mother died while he was still growing up, his aunt said, and a relative stepped in to help raise the children. When Brown had his own children, Brown Clark said he was devoted to all seven of them.

"It's because he knows the importance of parents — having lost both of his parents. ... He made sure they were loved, fed, bathed, dressed, at school on time, got their homework on time," Brown Clark said. "He demanded excellence in their education."

One of Brown's sons, 24-year-old Jharod Ferebee, said his dad was like a best friend — always hopeful and always willing to help.

"It seemed like no matter what he was going through, he kept a smile on his face," Ferebee said.

Explaining their decision to send a local version of a SWAT team to arrest Brown, Pasquotank County sheriff's officials have pointed to his criminal record. In a Facebook video, Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg cited felony drug charges and "a history of resisting arrest."

Authorities have not pointed to any specific history of violent actions by Brown. District Attorney Andrew Womble has said that on the day Brown was killed, his car made contact with deputies as he tried to avoid arrest, according to body camera footage recorded at the scene.

That account differs sharply from a description by family members who were allowed to view a brief portion of the footage last week. They say that video and an independent autopsy indicate that Brown was shot to death from behind in what one lawyer for the family described as an "execution."

Friends and family acknowledge Brown had a history of run-ins with the law, many of which were offenses such as drug-related misdemeanors. But they say they can't imagine how a warrant could end in his death.

"[He was] nonviolent, never tote a gun. That's why the community was so behind him, because they know him. He's a nonviolent person," said Daniel Bowser, 44.

Marching with protesters through Elizabeth City on the Friday after Brown's death, Bowser said he'd known Brown for about 30 years and was trying to make sense of what had happened to his friend.

"That was a nonviolent warrant that ended in death," he said.

In the aftermath of the shooting, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is calling for a special prosecutor, and activists are pressing state lawmakers to pass legislation requiring officials to promptly release body camera footage after fatal encounters with law enforcement.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Andrew Brown Jr. will be remembered today at a funeral service in Elizabeth City, N.C. Brown was the 42-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by sheriff's deputies on April 21. The shooting is under investigation by the FBI and state authorities. People who were close to Brown are also trying to make sense of his death and calling for police reform. NPR's Sarah McCammon has this story from Elizabeth City.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Those who knew Andrew Brown Jr. say he was funny, kind and a loving father. Monique Gaddy knew him since he was a small child.

MONIQUE GADDY: Andrew was a sweetheart. He dropped out of school, but he was very adamant about his children getting an education.

MCCAMMON: Brown grew up surrounded by a large extended family. His aunt, Lillie Brown Clark, says Andy Jr., as she called him, was a playful kid who loved to tease and entertain his cousins.

LILLIE BROWN CLARK: Of course, he told all kinds of jokes, and some of his jokes really came out of things he was doing himself. But he could turn it around and make it something funny.

MCCAMMON: She says Brown's mother died while he was still growing up, and a relative stepped in to help raise the children. When he had his own children, Brown Clark says, he was devoted to all seven of them.

BROWN CLARK: I'm sure in his head he probably said to himself, if I ever have children, I'm going to be a great father, I'm going to love them. He made sure they were loved, fed, bathed, dressed, at school on time, got their homework on time. He demanded excellence in their education.

MCCAMMON: One of Brown's sons, 24-year-old Jharod Ferebee, says his dad was like a best friend.

JHAROD FEREBEE: It seemed like no matter what he was going through, he kept a smile on his face. You know, you'll never - you would never know. He kept a smile on his face. He loved keeping a smile on others' face. And he was very welcoming, you know? He'll give anybody his last.

MCCAMMON: Explaining their decision to send a local SWAT team to arrest Brown, Pasquotank County sheriff's officials have pointed to his criminal record. In a Facebook video, Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg cited felony drug charges.

(SOUNDBITE OF FACEBOOK VIDEO)

DANIEL FOGG: Mr. Brown was a convicted felon with a history of resisting arrest. Our training and our policies indicate under such circumstances, there's a high risk of danger.

MCCAMMON: Authorities have not pointed to any specific history of violent actions by Brown. The district attorney claims that on the day he was killed, Brown's car made contact with deputies as he tried to avoid arrest. Friends and family acknowledge Brown had a history of run-ins with the law, many of which were offenses like drug-related misdemeanors. But they say they can't imagine how a warrant could end in his death.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Say his name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Andrew Brown.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Say his name.

MCCAMMON: Marching with protesters through Elizabeth City, Daniel Bowser said he'd known Brown for 30 years.

DANIEL BOWSER: Nonviolent, never toted a gun - that's why the community is so behind him - 'cause they know him. A lot of people know him. He's a nonviolent person.

MCCAMMON: Bowser and others who knew Brown are demanding answers and less aggressive policing.

BOWSER: That was a nonviolent warrant that ended in death.

MCCAMMON: North Carolina's governor is calling for a special prosecutor to oversee all matters related to the shooting. And activists are pressing state lawmakers to pass legislation requiring officials to promptly release body camera footage after fatal encounters with law enforcement. Meanwhile, the family of Andrew Brown Jr. is mourning his death and waiting for answers.

Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Elizabeth City, N.C.

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