On April 21, 32-year-old Isiah Brown was shot numerous times by a Spotsylvania County, Va., sheriff’s deputy not long after the same deputy had given him a ride home after his car broke down. The deputy had been called back to the scene to investigate a domestic disturbance, and at the time of the shooting, which the victim thankfully survived, Brown’s family was baffled as to what reason the officer had to open fire. On Thursday, the deputy was indicted, and his reason for shooting appears to be something we’ve all certainly seen before: A trained officer of the law mistook a Black man’s cell phone for a gun.
The Washington Post reports that Deputy David Matthew Turbyfill has been charged with one felony count of reckless handling of a firearm. It’s a charge that would normally be classified as a misdemeanor but was upgraded to a felony due to the seriousness of the injuries Brown sustained. Brown’s attorney, David Haynes, said his client was shot around eight times and six of those bullets are still lodged in his body.
Here’s what happened in April as reported by the Post:
The shooting unfolded in the early hours of April 21 and was captured on a 911 call and on murky body-camera video that was mostly pointed away from the encounter. The VSP said Turbyfill gave Brown a lift home from a gas station about 2:30 a.m. after his car broke down.
A short time later Brown called 911 again to report that he was in a dispute with his brother, the VSP said. On the 911 call that was released by the sheriff’s office, Brown can be heard asking his brother for a gun, a request the brother refused. Brown also said he was about to kill his brother.
He later told a 911 dispatcher he was outside his home and walking down a road. He told the dispatcher at one point that he had a gun, before quickly saying he did not. Brown’s family said he only had a cordless phone that he had used to call police. The VSP also said he was unarmed.
According to NBC 4, Brown told the dispatcher “I’m about to kill my brother,” to which the dispatcher replied, “Don’t kill your brother.”
“Alright,” Brown responded prompting the dispatcher to ask, “Why would you say something like that?”
“Somebody needs to come here real quick,” Brown said.
It’s unclear what the exact nature of Brown’s dispute with his brother was, but none of this really matters because Turbyfill had no knowledge of the exchange. In fact, he arrived at the scene while Brown was still on the phone with 911.
“Show me your hands,” Turbyfill can be heard in bodycam footage shouting at Brown, who still had his phone to his ear, NBC reports. “Show me your hands. Show me your hands, now. Show me your hands. Drop the gun. He’s got a gun to his head. Drop the gun now. Stop walking towards me. Stop walking towards me. Stop. Stop.”
Let’s just say for the sake of argument that it’s reasonable Turbyfill mistook the phone Brown was holding to his ear for a gun he was holding to his head. Why would the deputy feel the need to shoot the hell out of a man who is pointing his “gun” at himself and not the officer? It’s almost as if he thought Brown was trying to kill himself and his first reaction was to assist him in the effort.
But really, this seems to be yet another case of a cop opening fire at the first sign that he might possibly be in danger—and with no regard for the danger that practice can put civilians in.
Either way, Brown’s family is not satisfied with what Turbyfill has been charged with, as it carries a maximum sentence of just five years, according to Haynes.
“The family’s reaction is that a maximum of five years does not seem like enough given this was a totally unjustified shooting,” Haynes said, the Post reports.
Haynes also said Thursday that “There’s a lot to the story we still don’t know.”