A group of peaceful protesters chanting the name of Andrew Brown Jr.—whose killing police say was justified because Brown nearly struck deputies with his car while attempting to flee arrest last month—were marching down an Elizabeth City street Thursday when a white woman drove her car into them, sending two to the hospital.
One protester, a Black woman in her 40s, was dragged to the ground as the driver attempted to flee. She and another protester were taken to a local hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Police arrested the driver, Lisa Michelle O’Quinn, 41, of Greenville. She was charged with two felony counts for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and held on a $40,000 bond.
Police are investigating whether the assault was a hate crime, according to a press statement.
Activists, who returned to Elizabeth City today as they have every day since Brown’s homicide, say the crime was racially motivated.
“It is not surprising because these individuals with racial hatred in their hearts have pretty much referred to us as bowling pins and made posts on social media about how they can run over folks and get away with it,” activist Kerwin Pittman told the INDY. “There is deep-seated racial hatred, particularly in this small town.”
Screenshots provided to the INDY show that O’Quinn had a Confederate flag in her Facebook profile picture, used racial slurs, and commented “Black trouble makers” on a video of Rev. William J. Barber II and North Carolina NAACP President Rev. Anthony Spearman.
The protesters have been calling for justice in Brown’s death for more than a month, with sometimes dozens marching through the streets. Brown was shot in the back of the head by police after driving his car toward officers, who showed up heavily armed to arrest him on a drug warrant. Last week, Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble announced that the officers involved in Brown’s death would not face charges and would return to work after training.
“Mr. Brown’s death, while tragic, was justified, because Mr. Brown’s actions caused three deputies with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others,” Womble told reports last week during a press conference.
Activists planned to march at 6 p.m. in the continued protest over Brown’s killing. O’Quinn remains behind bars pending arraignment Thursday.
Whether hate crime charges would actually be levied against O’Quinn, Pittman was skeptical.
“To depend on law enforcement to do what they say they will is depending on Santa Claus to bring gifts,” Pittman said.
Follow Senior Staff Writer Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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