NC woman accused of striking Andrew Brown Jr. protesters appears in court, police weigh hate crime charges

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A North Carolina woman accused of striking at least two protesters with her vehicle in Elizabeth City during demonstrations over the fatal deputy-involved shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. appeared in court Thursday, as police continue to investigate whether her actions justify a hate crime. 

Lisa Michelle O’Quinn, 41, of Greenville, is charged with two felonious counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill by use of a motor vehicle, one count of careless and reckless behavior and one count of unsafe movement, the Elizabeth City Police Department had announced Tuesday.

O’Quinn asked to be appointed a public defender during a procedural hearing Thursday, WAVY reported, but did not respond to reporters asking her questions while walking out of the courthouse. She remains free after posting $40,000 bail, and a judge set her probable cause hearing for July 12.  

Video shared by WTKR shows that O’Quinn, seen wearing a red shirt and mask, remained silent while walking outside the Pasquotank County courthouse. A woman can be heard from off-camera yelling, “We protect our Black queens around here, you trashy a– woman.” 

As protesters gathered outside, O’Quinn was escorted by deputies after the hearing into a neighboring public safety building, WTKR reported. She was then escorted from that building to her vehicle to leave. 

The incident happened at about 6:45 p.m. Monday at the intersection of Ehringhaus Street and Griffin Street in Elizabeth City where police say, “A motorist struck two pedestrians who were peacefully protesting and exercising their constitutional rights.” 

Michelle Morris, 42, and Valerie Lindsey, 42, were hit by a car allegedly driven by O’Quinn. Both protesters were transported by EMS to Sentara Albemarle Hospital, treated for injuries that were not life threatening and released, police said. O’Quinn was initially booked into Albemarle District Jail. 

Cellphone footage of the incident circulated online showing protesters walking down U.S. Route 17, a four-lane business route of the highway that runs along restaurants and other businesses. A white car at an intersection turned onto the main road moving toward people, who then bang on the vehicle’s hood as it continues to turn onto Route 17. 

At least one person can be seen on the ground after the car turns. Video shows the vehicle pass other protesters, including one carrying a Black Lives Matter flag, before slowing and appearing to tap someone on a bicycle in front of the vehicle. 

Morris told WTKR that the female driver, “yelled and she was like, ‘Well, if it wasn’t for the police, you all guys wouldn’t be safe anyways. The murder was justified.’” “We told her, ‘Well, you’re still not getting through here,'” Morris continued. “She picked up her keys out of the console, started the car and commenced to drive forward.”

Demonstrations have continued in Elizabeth City since April 21 when Andrew Brown Jr. was shot and killed by Pasquotank sheriff’s deputies serving drug-related search and arrest warrants at his home. 

Andrew Womble, the elected district attorney for Judicial District 1, which covers seven counties of the northeastern part of the state, announced on May 18 that his office would not bring criminal charges against three deputies, arguing that their deadly use of force was justified because Brown first attempted to use his vehicle as a deadly weapon in striking deputies twice as he attempted to flee. 

Elizabeth City Police Department “is investigating this matter and we will be presenting facts and findings in this case to include potential aggravating factors for criminal enhancements for potential sentencing purposes of a hate crime involving this event,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday. 

“She needs to be held accountable for her actions,” Lindsey told the station, referring to O’Quinn. “She’s disrespectful. It should be a hate crime.”

The NAACP is planning to travel to the state capital of Raleigh and Washington, D.C., next week to call for investigations into the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office practices, WTKR reported. Brown’s death is also subject to a federal civil rights investigation. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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