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A gay Black man from Virginia is currently on a breathing machine and in critical condition after being shot by sheriff’s deputies who allegedly mistook a cordless house phone he was holding for a gun.
Isaiah Brown, 32, of Spotsylvania County in Northern Virginia, was shot last Wednesday by a county sheriff’s deputy who had just given him a ride home after his car broke down, according to family attorney David Haynes, a lawyer from the Washington-based Cochran Firm.
Close to fifty minutes after being dropped at his home Brown tried to retrieve some items, including his car keys, from his mother’s room, but was blocked by his brother.
The two argued and got into an altercation that turned sour, prompting Brown to dial 911 to ask for help, according to NBC News.
In an audio recording of the 911 dispatch call, the dispatcher is heard asking Brown why he needs car keys if his car is broken down and has just gotten a ride home.
Brown threatens to kill his brother, telling him: “Give me the gun.” The dispatcher then says, “Don’t kill your brother,” to which Brown replies, “All right.”
The dispatcher chastises Brown, asking him, “Why would you say something like that?” Brown then replies, “Somebody needs to come here real quick.” The dispatcher asks whether he has a weapon on him, and Brown responds, “Nope,” adding that he is “walking down the road” with his house phone.
While waiting for help to arrive, the dispatcher tells Brown to put his hands in the air as police sirens draw closer. According to the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were dispatched to the property to deal with what was labeled a “domestic disturbance.”
On the audio recording, a deputy is heard ordering Brown to “drop the gun.”
“He’s got a gun to his head,” the deputy says in body camera footage of the incident that was released. The deputy orders Brown to stop walking towards him and to drop his weapon, before firing his weapon several times.
Video shows Brown lying in the middle of the road as the deputy continues to order him to show his hands.
Haynes, the lawyer for Brown’s family, says Brown was shot at least 10 times, but only two bullets have been removed from his body. He is currently on a breathing machine and remains in critical condition.
Haynes told NBC News his law firm will formally ask for the full audio of the call between the deputy and the dispatcher who was on the phone with Brown, noting that Brown had told the dispatcher he was not armed, meaning “this was clearly a failure of communication between the dispatch and the officers that arrived on scene.”
“He made it totally clear that he did not have a weapon, that he did not have a gun, and he was calling for assistance from 911,” Haynes said. “In fact, the same deputies had just given him a ride and assisted him for a broken-down vehicle just within the past 30 to 45 minutes, but before they knew exactly who he was, that he was not armed, not dangerous.”
The deputy involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative leave. Spotsylvania Sheriff Roger Harris said in a video statement released last Friday that a special prosecutor has been appointed to oversee the investigation into the shooting, which will be carried out by Virginia State Police.
Haynes also criticized Harris, for allegedly downplaying the extent of Brown’s injuries, telling a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters that the deputy who shot Brown — whose identity has not been revealed — “actually saved this gentleman’s life.”
“I believe that the sheriff was reporting to the fact that he performed CPR, as of course he is required and trained to do. But it is incredible that he would make that statement that he saved his life by rendering CPR after he’s the one that shot him 10 times,” Haynes said, asking Harris not to comment any further on Brown’s physical condition.
Brown’s mother, Jennifer Brown, told NBC News that, at this point, her main concern is that her son will “hopefully come home alive.”
The National Black Justice Coalition, a leading civil rights group that advocates on behalf of Black LGBTQ people, expressed frustration at another incident in which a Black man has been shot by a member of law enforcement.
“Words do not exist to adequately convey the frustration, anger, and sadness associated with the continued violence that Black people face at the hands of the police. The terror and fear that we may have our lives stolen by a police officer who deems themself judge, jury, and executioner is overwhelming,” David Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a statement.
“Isaiah Brown should not be hospitalized in critical condition. He should be living his life as he has always lived it — in service to others as an essential worker and health aide. All reporting indicates that Brown complied with orders, which included raising his arms with his cell phone in hand, and informing the 911 dispatcher he was unarmed ahead of police arrival,” Johns added.
“Isaiah’s Black and gay/same gender loving identity will likely make it more difficult for his family to attain accountability for the officer responsible. Still, Black LGBTQ+ people continue to die by violence, often unreported, perpetrated by police officers and other state-sanctioned actors who do not value Black Lives Matter,” Johns continued.
“We echo the Brown family’s demands that all audio recordings associated with this shooting be released to the public. Additionally, that the police officer in question, who made careless and basic errors while violating police protocols, should be held accountable. We will continue to advance efforts that aim to reform national policy in attempt to prevent this from happening to another member of our community again.”
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