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A Virginia deputy has been placed on administrative leave after opening fire on an unarmed Black man whose cell phone he allegedly mistook for a firearm.
Isaiah Brown, 32, is “fighting for his life” after being shot multiple times by an officer during a “domestic disturbance,” in western Spotsylvania County, his lawyers said. A special prosecutor has since ordered the public release of the officer's body camera footage and 911 audio.
Brown initially phoned emergency dispatchers after having car troubles around 3 a.m. on April 21. The 32-year-old, who appeared agitated that he couldn’t enter his mother’s room, can be heard demanding a gun from his brother.
“Give me the gun,” Brown said, according to 911 audio of the incident reviewed by Oxygen.com.
When his brother refused, the 32-year-old allegedly threatened to “kill” his sibling on the recorded line.
“Don’t kill your brother,” the dispatcher told him, “Why would you say something like that?”
Brown, who later went outside, told the dispatcher he wasn’t armed during the call.
“Somebody needs to come here real quick,” Brown said.
Moments later, sirens can be heard in the call’s background. The dispatcher then advised Brown to put his hands up as the deputy arrived on-scene.
“Show me your hands!” the deputy shouted at Brown. “Drop the gun!
However, the responding officer appeared to confuse the man’s phone with a gun.
“He’s got a gun to his head,” the deputy said over the radio.
Seconds later, half a dozen gunshots rang out. Bodycam footage shows Brown sprawled motionless in the middle of the road. Several bullets punctured his abdomen, investigators said.
Immediately after pulling the trigger, the deputy appeared to initiate life-saving first aid measures on Brown.
The 32-year-old was eventually transported to a local hospital where he’s being treated. He remains in serious condition.
“Isaiah is now fighting for his life as a result of these completely avoidable errors by the deputy and dispatch," Brown’s attorney David Haynes told Oxygen.com in a statement on Monday. “The deputy in question made multiple, basic policing errors and violated established protocols. The deputy was situated nearly 50 feet from Isaiah, was never threatened, and should not have discharged his weapon."
The deputy, who hasn’t been identified, has been placed on administrative leave until further notice. Coincidentally, the same officer who shot Brown gave the 32-year-old a ride home after his car broke down less than an hour earlier, his family’s lawyers said.
Haynes was adamant Brown was unarmed, describing the shooting as “tragic” and “completely avoidable.”
“In the 911 call, Isaiah clearly told dispatch that he did not have a weapon more than 90 seconds before the deputy arrived," Haynes added. “He told dispatch that he was walking away from the house and away from anyone else and was on the roadway by himself.”
Spotsylvania Sheriff Roger Harris has since promised an “impartial” and “transparent” investigation into the incident.
The Virginia State Police Bureau of Investigations is leading the investigation. The City of Fredericksburg Commonwealth’s Attorney is reviewing possible charges in the case.
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