A white driver was arrested after she was accused of striking two Black women with her car during a peaceful protest over the death of Andrew Brown Jr., North Carolina authorities said Tuesday.
Lisa Michelle O’Quinn, 41, was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill by use of a motor vehicle, one count of careless and reckless conduct and one count of unsafe movement, Elizabeth City Police said in a news release. Investigators said they were still determining if the incident was a hate crime.
The incident occurred about 6:45 p.m. ET Monday at the intersection of Ehringhaus Street and Griffin Street in the city, police said. In a video posted on Twitter, a white car could be seen hitting two protesters, causing one to fall to the ground.
— Kerwin Pittman (@KerwinPittman) May 25, 2021
The two victims were identified as Michelle Fleming Morris and Valerie Lindsey, both 42-year-old Black women. They were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening and later released from a hospital.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets in Elizabeth City since Brown, 42, a Black man, was killed on April 21 as Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies sought to serve a warrant for his arrest on felony drug charges.
District Attorney Andrew Womble said the deputies were justified when they fatally shot Brown while he tried to flee the scene. Brown’s family widely condemned the prosecutor’s decision, saying that Womble did nothing but “whitewash” the facts of the case.
The district attorney has said officers fired only after Brown struck deputies twice with his vehicle. However, his family’s attorneys say video of the fatal incident is at odds with how law officials have framed the shooting.
Chance Lynch, an attorney for the family, said the video shows that deputies fired at Brown, prompting him to move his vehicle away from them. After the shooting, Brown’s vehicle was riddled with bullet holes, Lynch said.
Brown, who appeared to be on a cellphone when deputies approached him in his vehicle, was “ambushed,” Lynch said, adding that body camera video of the aftermath of the shooting shows that deputies found no weapons on Brown.
“You could see that he was not a threat. There was a shot fired. When the shot was fired, he put the car in reverse, putting several feet, if not yards, away from the police who were there. He turned his wheel to the left, to turn it away from the law enforcement officers,” he said. “At no point did we ever see any police officers behind his vehicle. At no point did we ever see Mr. Brown make contact with law enforcement.”
Brown then began to accelerate across his yard when officers again started to shoot at the vehicle, Lynch said. The vehicle went down a ditch and crashed into a tree, he said. Deputies pulled Brown from the vehicle and laid him face-first on the ground.
In court, Womble said deputies were prompted to fire because Brown made contact with them both behind and in front of the vehicle.
An autopsy commissioned by Brown’s family found he was shot five times, once in the back of the head.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten identified three of his deputies who opened fire at Brown as Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan and Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn. Wooten last Tuesday said the three would keep their jobs, but they and others in his department would face internal discipline for actions taken on April 21, according to the sheriff.
Two deputies at the scene failed to turn on their body cameras during the confrontation, and the arrest team failed to have emergency medical services nearby, though Brown would have still died from the gunshots he suffered, according to Wooten.
In the same hour O’Quinn struck the two women, authorities advised residents to be extra cautious of peaceful protesters.
“Be vigilant as Elizabeth City prepares for peaceful protests,” police said in a tweet. “Please expect delays as traffic may be redirected around citizens exercising their constitutional right to a peaceful protest.”
O’Quinn is being held on a $40,000 bond at the Albemarle District Jail in Elizabeth City. She is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
Efforts to reach O’Quinn by phone were unsuccessful Tuesday. It was unclear if she had an attorney.