After initially not pledging to, the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office of Virginia has released 911 call audio and bodycam footage from a deputy who shot gay Black man Isaiah Brown while he was unarmed. The department has admitted that the deputy that opened fire and another deputy accompanying him mistook a house phone that Brown was holding for a gun when they shot him.
Brown’s family has stated that he is still recovering from gunshot wounds and, after reviewing the audio and footage, declared the “tragic shooting” as “completely avoidable.”
Brown, 32, was given a ride home by a sheriff’s deputy in the early morning of April 21 after his car had broke down. The deputy would return just minutes later and open fire after a 911 call was placed by Brown. The call was referred to as a reported “domestic disturbance” in initial police statements, and Brown was relayed as a “suspect” by the department.
This weekend, Spotslyvania County Sheriff Roger Harris said that “the bodycam footage and the 911 audio are being made available to the public” at the advisement of the Fredericksburg Commonwealth Attorney’s office, who was assigned as special prosecutor for the case.
According to the call’s audio, Isaiah complained that his brother Tazmon Brown wouldn’t let him into his room to get his car keys. Isaiah then repeatedly asked his brother for “the gun.” Tazmon can be heard refusing.
When asked by the 911 operator why he was doing that, Isaiah said, “I’m about to kill my brother.”
“Why would you say something like that?” the operator asked. “Do you understand that you just threatened to kill your brother on a recorded line on 911?” Isaiah is then heard leaving the house and tells the operator that he is walking outside his house.
When asked if he has a weapon multiple times, Isaiah gives different answers. He said “yep” at first, but when asked again right after, he said “no.” When asked again, he replied in the negative again. The last time he is asked, Isaiah said he does not have a weapon.
At this point, the two sheriff’s deputies arrive, and the 911 operator tells Isaiah to put his hands up multiple times. He does not reply immediately.
The deputies, in both the 911 audio and the body cam footage, can be heard telling Brown to “drop the gun.” One said, “he’s got a gun to his head.”
After repeatedly asking him to “drop the gun,” a deputy opens fire. The officer then continues to request he “drop the gun.”
“I killed a guy,” the deputy said after. He reports that Isaiah has “several gunshots to abdomen, one gunshot to the left thigh, [and] two gunshots to the side.” He then says, “I’ll pray for you, man.”
At the end of the available 911 audio, a deputy audibly asks, “where is the gun at? Where is the gun?” It’s not clear if he is asking the other deputy or Tazmon about a weapon.
At least seven gunshots are clearly audible from the body cam footage and 911 audio. It’s not clear if or how many times the other police officer opened fire.
“It is evident that the tragic shooting of Isaiah Brown was completely avoidable,” said Brown family attorney David Haynes of the Cochran Law Firm in a statement to LGBTQ Nation.
“Isaiah clearly told dispatch that he did not have a weapon more than 90 seconds before the deputy arrived,” Haynes said, and that “the deputy in question made multiple, basic policing errors and violated established protocols,” and “should not have discharged his weapon” because he “was situated nearly 50 feet from Isaiah” and “was never threatened.”
Haynes is calling for audio between police dispatchers and sheriff’s deputies to be released because “obviously a failure of communication between dispatch and the officer which led to this tragic event.”
At a press conference today, Haynes along with the Brown family spoke to media reporters about Isaiah’s condition and the incident. Haynes described him as “touch and go.”
“He’s on a breathing machine and remains in very critical condition,” he shared. Haynes denounced Sheriff Harris and asked him to refrain from commenting further on Isaiah’s condition, describing previous comments as an attempt to downplay the severity of the shooting, and condemning him for claiming that a sheriff’s deputy saved Isaiah’s life.
Haynes confirmed that “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” prior to the shooting.
“They knew exactly who he was, that he was not armed not dangerous,” he said.
“My concern at this point is just for my son to hopefully come home alive,” Isaiah’s mother Jennifer Brown told reporters.
Describing the dispute between Isaiah and Tazmon, Haynes said, “It was not a violent situation, it was not a situation involving friction.”
The Virginia State Police are investigating the incident. The deputy who shot Brown was placed on administrative leave. He has not been named.
On his Facebook page, Brown identified as gay. A home health care aide, Brown also shared gifts he received from family members of those he took care of and talked about his love for R&B music and food.
Brown’s brother Tazmon and sister Yolanda said last week that they were unable to comprehend how their brother, a home health care aide, was perceived as a threat.
“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.
“I’m just still trying to figure out where he felt the threat at, to feel the need to shoot,” said Yolanda.
NEW: Body camera footage and 911 audio released late Friday appeared to show that a Virginia deputy mistook a cordless house phone held by Isaiah Brown for a gun before the deputy shot him at least seven times: https://t.co/gN6hz8xWns https://t.co/y3qEFyOqyC
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) April 24, 2021
On Isaiah Brown shooting in VA, @JoshNBCNews: "officials initially said that Isaiah brown had non-life-threatening injuries and now his family and their attorney says that's false. They say he's currently hooked up to a breathing machine in the hospital…" (1/2) #AMRstaff
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) April 26, 2021
.@JoshNBCNews: "…and describe his situation as touch and go. He's had multiple surgeries in which two out of ten bullets that they say were shot into Isaiah brown were removed leaving another 8 bullets still in his body." (2/2) #AMRstaff
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) April 26, 2021