An unarmed Black gay man remains in critical condition after being shot multiple times by a Virginia sheriff’s deputy early Wednesday morning, just days after Derek Chauvin was found guilty for the murder of George Floyd.
Isiah Brown suffered multiple gunshot wounds after an unnamed Spotsylvania Virginia sheriff’s deputy mistook the cordless house phone Brown was using to speak with 911 for a gun. The same deputy had driven Brown home one hour earlier after his car broke down at a gas station.
“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 Isiah Brown was completely avoidable. Isiah clearly told dispatch that he did not have a weapon more than 90 seconds before the deputy arrived. He told dispatch that he was walking away from the house and away from anyone else and was on the roadway by himself. Isiah was on the phone with 911 at the time of the shooting and the officer mistook a cordless house phone for a gun,” Brown family attorney David Haynes said in a statement.
Haynes also said the deputy “made multiple, basic policing errors and violated established protocols” during the incident. “The deputy was situated nearly 50 feet from Isiah, was never threatened and should not have discharged his weapon,” Haynes said.
The deputy responded to a 911 call made by Brown that Virginia State Police described as a “domestic incident.” Brown can be heard arguing with his brother, Tazmon, because he wouldn’t let him “get inside my mom’s room” to retrieve his car keys. Brown expressed concern that he couldn’t get to his car, which the 911 dispatcher indicated was towed. Brown asked Tazmon to give him a gun, which he refused to do, and Brown said he was going to kill him before exiting the home. Brown confirmed to 911 that he was unarmed before the deputy arrived on the scene.
The deputy can be heard telling Brown to stop walking toward him and misidentifying the phone Brown was using to communicate with 911 as a gun that Brown was holding to his own head on both the 911 call audio and bodycam footage released Friday. The deputy fired seven shots, striking Brown, continued ordering Brown to “show me your hands” afterward and began administering medical aid to Brown while saying “I’ll pray for you.”
According to The Daily Beast, both the Spotsylvania County sheriff’s office and Virginia State Police confirmed that Brown was unarmed. The shooting was not captured on the bodycam footage released to the public as the camera was angled downward toward the road.
Speaking to NBC Washington, Tazmon believes Brown called 911 because he wanted a ride back to his car to prevent it from being towed. “The officer just started shooting at him for no reason. I didn’t hear a warning shot. All I heard was ‘Hands up!’ one time. And all he had was his phone, so I know he put his hands up,” Tazmon said.
Brown remains in intensive care on a breathing machine in a Virginia hospital. Haynes claimed in a news conference Monday that Brown was shot ten times and his condition was “touch and go” after having two of the eight bullets surgically removed. “My concern at this point is hopefully for my son to come home alive,” Jennifer Brown, Brown’s mother, said Monday.
Brown’s family is requesting that audio of the communication between the deputy and dispatch prior to the shooting, while Black Lives Matter Fredericksburg is demanding the deputy’s name and additional video footage be released.
Brown’s shooting, along with those of Andrew Brown Jr. and Ma’Khia Bryant, has reignited the push for the Senate to sign the George Floyd Policing Act. “I want everyone here to take out your phones and Google the numbers for Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin and ask them why they haven’t signed on to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” Bakari Sellers, an attorney for Andrew Brown Jr.’s family, said Monday during a news conference.
Spotsylvania County Sheriff Roger Harris himself drew criticism Friday after saying “the deputy actually saved this gentleman’s life” to protestors gathered outside the Spotsylvania County sheriff’s office Friday evening. “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.
The deputy has been placed on administrative leave while the Virginia State Police investigate the shooting.