A white driver has been arrested after allegedly beating two black women with his car during a peaceful protest over the death of Andrew Brown Jr., North Carolina authorities said on Tuesday.
Lisa Michelle O'Quinn, 41, faces two counts of assault with a firearm with intent to kill with a motor vehicle, one with negligence and reckless conduct and one with unsafe driving, Elizabeth City police said in a statement. Investigators said they were still trying to determine whether the incident was a hate crime.
The incident happened around 6.45pm. Monday ET at the intersection of Ehringhaus Street and Griffin Street, police said. In a video posted on Twitter, it was seen a white car hit two protesters, causing one to fall to the ground.
The two victims identified as Michelle Fleming Morris and Valerie Lindsey, both 42-year-old black women. They were treated for non-medical injuries and were later released from the hospital.
Protesters have taken to the streets of Elizabeth City since the killing of Brown, 42, a black man, on April 21 when deputy sheriffs in Pasquotank County sought to issue a warrant for his arrest on drug charges.
District attorney Andrew Womble said the deputies should have shot and killed Brown while trying to flee the scene. Brown's family strongly criticized the prosecutor's decision, saying Womble did nothing but "hide" the facts of the case.
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The district attorney said officials fired only after Brown hit his deputies twice with his car. However, lawyers for his family said the video of the tragic incident contradicted how law enforcement officials carried out the shooting.
Chance Lynch, a family lawyer, said the video showed the deputies shot Brown, which led to him moving his car away from them. After the shooting, Brown's car was full of bullet holes, Lynch said.
Brown, who appeared to be on his cellphone when the deputies approached him in his car, "was shocked," Lynch said, adding that a video camera of the body after the shooting showed the deputies did not find any weapons in Brown.
"You could see he was not a threat. A gunshot was fired. When the gun went off, he pulled the car back, placed several feet, if not the yard, away from the police. He turned his wheel to the left, away from law enforcement officials," he said. "We have never seen the police in the back of his car. We have never seen Mr Brown contact the police."
Brown then started speeding into his yard when police started firing at the car, Lynch said. The car went down a ditch and hit a tree, he said. The deputies pulled Brown out of the car and put him face down.
In court, Womble said the deputies were shot because Brown had contacted them in the back and in front of the car.
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An autopsy of Brown's family found that he had been shot five times, once in the head.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten identified three of his deputies who opened fire on Brown such as Detective Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan and Clpl. Aaron Lewellyn. Wooten last Tuesday said all three would retain their jobs, but they and others in his department would face internal disciplinary action on the steps taken on April 21, according to a police officer.
Two deputies at the scene failed to turn on their body cameras during the fight, and a team of detainees failed to have emergency services nearby, although Brown would have been killed in the shooting, Wooten said.
At the same time O'Quinn beat the two women, and authorities advised residents to pay close attention to the peaceful protesters.
"Be careful as Elizabeth City prepares for peaceful protests," police said in a tweet. "Please expect a delay as vehicles may be redirected to citizens who exercise their constitutional right to protest peacefully."
O'Quinn was arrested on $ 40,000 bond at Albemarle District Jail in Elizabeth City. He is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
Efforts to reach O'Quinn by telephone were unsuccessful on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.