ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. -- The FBI opened a civil-rights inquiry Tuesday into the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man killed by deputies in North Carolina, as his family released an independent autopsy showing he was shot five times, including in the back of the head.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called for a special prosecutor while pressure built on authorities to release body-camera footage of last week's shooting. A judge scheduled a hearing today to consider formal requests to make the video public.
The FBI's Charlotte field office, which opened the civil-rights investigation into Brown's death, said in a statement that its agents planned to work closely with the Department of Justice "to determine whether federal laws were violated."
The independent autopsy was performed Sunday by a pathologist hired by Brown's family. The exam noted four wounds in the right arm and one in the head. The state's autopsy has not been released yet.
The family's lawyers also released a copy of the death certificate, which lists the cause of death as a "penetrating gunshot wound of the head." The certificate, signed by a paramedic services instructor who serves as a medical examiner, describes the death as a homicide.
Brown was shot April 21 by deputies serving drug-related search and arrest warrants at his house in the North Carolina town of Elizabeth City, about 160 miles northeast of Raleigh.
The autopsy results were aired a day after Brown's relatives were shown a 20-second clip of footage from one deputy's body camera. One of the Brown family lawyers, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, who viewed the video, said Monday that officers opened fire on Brown while he had his hands on the steering wheel of a car. She said the video showed Brown trying to drive away but posing no threat to officers.
Brown's son, Khalil Ferebee, questioned why deputies opened fire.
"Yesterday I said he was executed. This autopsy report shows me that was correct," he said Tuesday at a news conference. "It's obvious he was trying to get away. It's obvious. And they're going to shoot him in the back of the head?"
The shooting prompted days of protests and calls for justice and transparency. Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II has said several deputies fired shots but released few other details. Seven Pasquotank County deputies have been placed on leave.
Clergy members who called a news conference outside an Elizabeth City church welcomed the FBI's announcement.
"Amen. Because the people here are inept, incapable and incompetent," said the Rev. William Barber II, who leads the Poor People's Campaign, referring to local authorities.
Brown's lawyers also welcomed the federal agency's involvement: "We have great faith that this caliber of an investigation will prevent any obscuring of the facts released to the Brown family and public and will overcome any local bias that may prevent justice from being served."
The State Bureau of Investigation began an investigation of the shooting shortly after it happened. It initially said that it would turn its findings over to the district attorney, as is standard under state laws and procedures.
But the governor, a Democrat, urged the appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the state's case.
"This would help assure the community and Mr. Brown's family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias," Cooper said in a statement.
State Attorney General Josh Stein said state law puts control of criminal prosecutions in the hands of the district attorney, so his office cannot intervene unless asked. He said he has offered assistance to the local prosecutor, but has only received an acknowledgment.
"For my office to play a role in the prosecution, the District Attorney must request our assistance," Stein said.
District Attorney Andrew Womble, who oversees Pasquotank County, issued a statement noting that state law gives him the power to decide on prosecuting crimes in his district and he stands "ready willing and able to fulfill my statutory obligations."
Information for this article was contributed by Gary D. Robertson of The Associated Press.