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Attorney: Policing errors led to deputy shooting Isaiah Brown

Posted at 12:54 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-26 19:27:05-04

SPOTSYLVANIA COURTHOUSE, Va. (AP) - The family of a Black man shot by a Virginia sheriff's deputy last week demanded the release of additional audio recordings related to the incident Monday and said Isaiah Brown remained in “very critical” condition.

Speaking at a news conference outside the Spotsylvania County Courthouse, an attorney for Brown's family said a breakdown in communication and “grave” policing errors led to the unarmed 32-year-old health aide being shot multiple times.

“This is an incident that should never have happened,” attorney David Haynes said.

The shooting took place early Wednesday morning outside Brown's home after Brown called 911 amid a dispute with his brother, according to partial audio of the incident released Friday. That audio and body camera footage appeared to show the deputy arriving amid darkness mistook a cordless house phone Brown was holding for a gun before opening fire.

While Brown indicated at one point in his conversation with the dispatcher that he had a gun, Haynes said he made clear more than 90 seconds before the deputies arrived that he was unarmed.

“This was clearly a failure of communication between the dispatch and the officers that arrived on scene,” Haynes said.

The family has filed a formal request for audio between the dispatch center and responding deputies, he said.

Haynes also called on Spotsylvania County Sheriff Roger Harris to cease commenting about Brown's health, saying Harris had provided information that was “inaccurate” and “misleading.”

“The sheriff has reported at various times that he was only shot once, or a few times. He’s also reported that he was in a non-life-threatening condition. This is not true,” Haynes said.

Haynes said trauma surgeons at the Fredericksburg hospital treating Brown have told the family there were 10 bullets in Brown's body and two had been removed.

Brown remains on a breathing machine in “very critical" condition, Haynes said.

A sheriff’s department spokesman did not respond Monday to a phone message and email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Spotsylvania County Sheriff Roger Harris didn't reveal many additional details during a video message posted on Youtube on Friday.

"Mr. Brown was struck by the gunfire. The deputy immediately rendered lifesaving first aid," Harris explained. "At my request, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Investigations was contacted to ensure a transparent and impartial investigation."

Virginia State Police (VSP) is handling the investigation, and a special prosecutor will review the findings.

"The investigation remains ongoing at this time, so we are not in a position to comment on any circumstances related to the shooting. Once the investigation is concluded, state police will turn over the investigative findings to the special prosecutor for final review and adjudication," a VSP spokesman said in an email on Monday.

The VSP spokesperson said the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office would have to release the identity of the deputy involved.

The deputy is on administrative leave, according to the sheriff.

Brown's family has said the same deputy who shot Brown had given him a ride home from a gas station earlier after his car broke down.

The family is also seeking “all audio” previously recorded that evening, as well as transcriptions of all written communications, Haynes said.

The body camera video shows the deputy arriving at the scene early Wednesday morning and yelling at Brown to show his hands. The deputy orders Brown to “drop the gun” multiple times and appears to say over his radio, "He’s got a gun to his head.” The deputy then yells, “Stop walking towards me, stop walking towards me,” and, “Stop, stop!” before opening fire.

The 911 audio shows Brown was on the phone with the dispatcher at the time the deputy arrived. The dispatcher is heard telling Brown to “hold your hands up” as the sirens draw near.

Haynes said the deputies failed to properly light the situation, did not wait for backup, and overreacted, likely because of a communication breakdown between dispatch and the officer.

Brown's sister, Yolanda Brown, said her brother worked as a health aide, loved children and was “the life of the party.”

"It’s a lot to process," Yolanda explained. "I'm numb. I think we are all numb because this is my brother, this is an uncle, this is a son, this is a fiance, he’s got nieces. He’s a great uncle. It’s just a lot."

“Anybody know that if you call on Isaiah, he will be there,” she said.

In brief remarks, his mother, Jennifer Brown, said, “My concern at this point is just for my son to hopefully come home alive.”