BOLIVIA, NC (NEWS RELEASE FROM DISTRICT ATTORNEY JON DAVID) – On May 13, 2011, Sheriff John Ingram contacted me regarding an officer related shooting in Bolivia. Upon learning that William Brown had been shot and killed by an officer of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, I made an immediate request for an independent SBI investigation. I was joined in this request by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.
After a thorough review of this independent investigation, I, along with senior members of my staff, have determined that no criminal charges will be filed against any law enforcement officer for the shooting death of Mr. Brown. In reaching this conclusion, we have carefully reviewed all the facts including the physical, testimonial, and videotape evidence. This evidence was collected and interviews were conducted primarily by an agent of the SBI who lives outside of our prosecutorial district.
By way of summation, the investigation revealed that the wife of Mr. Brown made a 911 call at approximately 7:31 pm on May 13, 2011. She reported that her husband was in their garage and that she had heard a gunshot. She expressed the belief that her husband had shot himself and requested the assistance of law enforcement. During this call to the 911 center, Mrs. Brown advised that her husband was still alive but had a firearm.
Deputy Sheriffs arrived on the scene at approximately 7:49 p.m. and ultimately four officers were on scene at the time of the shooting. One of the officers, Deputy Genda, had an active dash camera that recorded the audio of the events before, during, and after the shooting. This audio recording corroborates the statements given by officers at the scene, the physical evidence collected at the scene, and the statements made by the civilian witnesses. All of the evidence is entirely consistent with the statements made by the officers. From the evidence, it is clear that Mr. Brown was a person in crisis at the time the original 911 call was made. Independent evidence demonstrates that Mr. Brown was threatening to harm himself with a firearm and that several shots had been fired prior to officers arriving at the scene. Mr. Brown was in his garage when officers arrived on the scene. Officers observed Mr. Brown with a handgun and ordered him to come out of the garage without the gun. As Deputy Genda approached the garage, Mr. Brown came out of the garage and pointed the firearm at the deputy. Deputy Genda was able to take cover and Mr. Brown returned to the garage.
While Mr. Brown was inside the garage, officers repeatedly requested that he put the gun down and come out of the garage. Mr. Brown did not comply with these demands and officers could see Mr. Brown pointing the gun towards his own head. Mr. Brown did lower the gun to his side and picked up a cell phone with his left hand.
In an effort to save Mr. Brown’s life and to protect the lives of others at the scene, Deputy Genda entered the garage from a side door. The officers outside the garage were able to maintain visual contact with Mr. Brown through the bay door area of the garage and continued to order Mr. Brown to put the gun down and come out.
As the officers continued their demands, Deputy Genda moved towards Mr. Brown in an effort to use a taser to subdue Mr. Brown. A taser fires two electrical probes that are designed to subdue a person by electrical shock. Both electrical probes must be in contact with a person in order for the taser to work. The officer had been trained and certified in the use of the taser. Inside the garage, Deputy Genda had to move through a narrow space between a car and the front wall of the garage as he approached Mr. Brown in an effort to obtain an effective range and angle for the taser. As the deputy approached Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown noticed the deputy and turned towards the deputy. Deputy Genda then fired the taser at Mr. Brown in an effort to subdue him. Unfortunately, only one of the electrical probes made contact with Mr. Brown. The second probe imbedded in a piece of standing plywood that was between Deputy Genda and Mr. Brown. As a result of an incomplete circuit, the taser failed to have any effect upon Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown’s next reaction was to point his firearm at Deputy Genda. The deputy had no place to retreat and fired his service weapon at Mr. Brown in self defense. The deputy’s shot seemed to have no effect upon Mr. Brown and the deputy was forced to fire a second shot. It was later determined that Mr. Brown had been shot once in the left wrist and once in the chest. Deputy Genda made an immediate request for EMS which was already stationed just off the premises prior to law enforcement arriving on the scene. As a result, the EMS response was extremely rapid. Efforts made by EMS and hospital personnel were unable to save Mr. Brown’s life.
One of my sworn duties as District Attorney is to advise local law enforcement on the appropriate use of deadly force. Officers are routinely trained and advised that deadly force is a force of last resort. In this case, deputies gave verbal commands to Mr. Brown to put down the gun. The deputies exercised restraint in not firing on Mr. Brown when he initially pointed the firearm at Deputy Genda who was able to take cover. These deputies were acting under exigent circumstances as they observed Mr. Brown threaten his own life. The deputies attempted to protect life by using non lethal force to subdue Mr. Brown with a taser. Deputy Genda was compelled to fire upon Mr. Brown inside the garage as a matter of last resort. It is our conclusion that Deputy Genda fired in self defense.
The law authorizes an officer to take pre-emptive action and use deadly force to prevent death or serious injury to himself, provided that his threat assessment is reasonably made. As our Supreme Court has observed, the calculus of reasonableness must allow for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving. Deputy Genda’s decision to use deadly force was a lawful and measured response to the situation that he confronted and necessary for this own protection. Prior to discharging his weapon, Deputy Genda and other officers on scene made repeated
attempts to bring the situation to a peaceful conclusion. While this incident is undeniably a tragedy for everyone involved, the investigation has conclusively determined that Deputy Genda acted consistently with his training and experience. Far from being admonished for their behavior, all officers on scene acted in a way which our community should expect given the difficulties inherent in their job function.
I met with Mr. Brown’s wife and her sister to review the evidence and share our conclusion that no officer will be charged. I invited Mrs. Brown and, if she so desires, a civil attorney of her choosing, to come to my office at a later time to review the entire SBI report, and allow them to question the lead case agent about any aspect of the investigation. During the meeting with the Brown family, it was clear to me that William Gordon Brown was dearly loved by his wife and family. It is also clear that Mr. Brown was in an emotional and mental crisis on May 13, 2011 because of some personal issues. His actions on that date were inconsistent with the manner in which he normally conducted his personal life. It is my decision to rule that this shooting was justified under the law and under the circumstances as revealed by the independent SBI investigation. In reaching this conclusion, we have carefully reviewed all the facts including the physical, testimonial, and videotape evidence. This evidence was collected and interviews were conducted primarily by an agent of the SBI who lives outside of our prosecutorial district.