(WB) The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBT rights organization, issued a statement on Monday disclosing that an unarmed 32-year-old Black man who was shot as many as 10 times by a sheriff’s deputy in Spotsylvania County, Va., on April 21 is gay.
An attorney representing the family of shooting victim Isaiah Brown stated at an April 26 news conference that the deputy should have known that Brown was holding a phone and not a gun before the deputy fired multiple shots that struck Brown.
“After viewing the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s deputy’s bodycam video and listening to the 911 call, it is evident that the tragic shooting of Isaiah Brown was completely avoidable,” said Attorney David Haynes of the Cochran law firm. “The deputy in question made multiple, basic policing errors and violated established protocols,” Haynes said.
A spokesperson for the Cochran firm told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that Brown’s sister confirmed that Brown identifies as a gay man. The spokesperson, Ryan Julison, said the Cochran firm has “no knowledge at this point” whether or not anti-LGBT bias played a role in the shooting incident.
“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,” said David Johns, the National Black Justice Coalition executive director, in the group’s statement. “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 said.
“We echo the Brown family’s demands that all audio recordings associated with this shooting be released to the public,” Johns said. “Additionally, that the police officer in question, who made careless and basic errors while violating police protocols, should be held accountable,” he said.
The Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office has said a sheriff’s deputy gave Brown a ride home in the early morning hours of April 21 after his car became disabled. The Sheriff’s Office said less than an hour later, Brown called 911 to report he and his brother were having a dispute and he told the 911 operator he wanted to kill his brother.
The Washington Post reported that Brown could be heard on the audio recording asking his brother for a gun and the brother can be heard refusing the request. The Sheriff’s Office has said Brown then left his house while still talking to the 911 operator on a cordless house phone.
“Brown goes on to say he is armed, before quickly saying he does not have a gun on the recording,” the Post reports.
Multiple news reports of the incident, including TV news stations, have shown body camera footage released by the Sheriff’s Office showing that the deputy’s body camera was pointed away from Brown when the deputy arrived on the scene in response to the 911 call. But on the body camera’s audio recording, the deputy can be heard shouting at Brown to drop the gun seconds before he began firing at Brown.
Attorney Haynes has said the 911 operator appears to have given the deputy the incorrect impression that Brown had a gun.
“Isaiah was on the phone with 911 at the time of the shooting and the officer mistook the cordless house phone for a gun,” Haynes said in a statement. “There is no indication that Isaiah did anything other than comply with dispatch’s orders and raised his hands with the phone in his hand as instructed,” Haynes said.
The Sheriff’s Office has said it has placed the deputy on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation being conducted by the Virginia State Police and a special prosecutor.
“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,” Johns said in his statement. “The terror and fear that we may have our lives stolen by a police officer who deems themself judge, jury, and executioner is overwhelming.”
A spokesperson for the Cochran law firm said Brown was in critical condition at a hospital in nearby Fredericksburg suffering from 10 gunshot wounds. Spotsylvania County is located about 66 miles south of D.C.