ELIZABETH CITY, NC – Body camera footage of sheriff’s deputies shooting a black man will not be immediately released after a judge ruled on Wednesday to give state officials at least a month to carry out well an investigation into the shooting.
Andrew Brown Jr. was shot five times, including one in the back of the head, by MPs serving terms at his Elizabeth City home last week, an independent autopsy ordered by his family was shown and released Tuesday. His death sparked a week of protests and demands for accountability and transparency.
Judge Jeffery Foster ruled on Wednesday that Brown’s family would be allowed to see additional footage of his death and said he would reconsider releasing the videos in 30 to 45 days, once the Bureau of Investigation d The state will have completed its investigation and any potential impeachment decision will be made. .
Foster has ruled that Brown’s son, his immediate family and a lawyer will be allowed to see more footage after seeing a short edited clip from the set earlier this week. However, Foster said MPs faces and ID badges should be blurry and some segments could still be redacted.
Foster said he was making the decision not to release the video for fear it could hamper the ongoing investigation and threaten the safety of those in the video.
The Pasquotank County District Attorney, on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office and a coalition of media organizations including Gannett, the parent company of USA TODAY, argued that the video should be released. Foster said the media were not allowed to have the video posted, but the sheriff’s office, seeking to release the video to Brown’s adult son, did.
District Attorney Andrew Womble, who oversees Pasquotank County, requested the delay, citing concerns about the right of potential defendants to a fair trial. If the video was released and he laid criminal charges, Womble said it could skew the jury.
Arguing on behalf of media organizations, attorney Mike Tadych said posting the videos was in the public interest and could help dispel any rumors about what happened during Brown’s death.
Tadych said he had worked on previous cases in which a video had been shown and that did not lead to a biased jury. He also appealed at the current time public claims of police accountability in the United States as evidence of the public interest in the video.
Independent autopsy:Andrew Brown Jr. shot 5 times, once fatally in the back of the head
In a statement, Robert L. Schurmeier, director of the State Bureau of Investigation, said the agency would defer to local authorities and the court to determine whether the video should be released.
“The (State Bureau of Investigation) supports transparency whenever possible because we believe it serves the best interests of the family, the local community and North Carolina as a whole,” said Schurmeier.
During the hearing, Womble also took issue with a Brown family attorney’s account of what goes on in the video. He said the video shows Brown driving ahead and his vehicle contacting law enforcement before shots were fired.
Brown family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said body camera video the family saw shows Brown with his hands on the wheel of his car and not a threat to MPs, who then shot that he was backing up his vehicle and trying to leave.
State law allows agencies to show the video to family members in private. Brown’s family watched what they said was an edited and shortened clip of his death on Monday. Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee said the clip they saw showed his father being “executed”.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on Tuesday called for a special prosecutor to deal with the case and any decision on possible criminal charges. The FBI field office in Charlotte said it has opened a civil rights investigation into Brown’s death.
Several sheriff’s assistants serving arrest and search warrants at Brown’s home fired shots last Wednesday, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said. Seven MPs are on leave while the State Investigation Bureau examines the case.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Brown’s family, has denounced the lack of access to body camera footage.
“We think they’re trying to hide the truth,” Crump said. “If they made transparency a priority, we would all have seen this video.”
Brown’s warrants were related to alleged drug offenses. On Tuesday, Crump tweeted a clip of what he called “militarized police rushing to kill Andrew Brown,” showing a truck with the word “sheriff” painted on the side and filled with armed personnel.
Crump also tweeted that the video was provided by Elizabeth City Council, but USA TODAY could not verify whether the MPs pictured in the video were the real MPs on their way to serve the arrest warrant on Brown.
WAVY-TV reported that the video was taken by a city-owned camera mounted on a utility pole on Brown Street.
On Tuesday, another night of protests continued in Elizabeth City. The mayor had previously declared a state of emergency before any possible video broadcast and a curfew was in effect.
“It seems like every week we say no justice, no peace, but nothing gets better. We should all be tired of this so that it does not turn into a weekly event. They need to improve training. They need to improve community policing, ”said Kirk Rivers, brother of Pasquotank County NAACP Chairman Keith Rivers, as he led a group of protesters.
Brown’s death came a day after a Minneapolis jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd and a day before the funeral of Daunte Wright, a black man from Minnesota shot dead by an officer during the ‘a traffic stop.
A funeral for Brown is scheduled for Monday, where Civil Rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy. Sharpton also delivered the eulogy at Wright’s funeral.
The family is looking for answers:Why did the police kill Andrew Brown Jr.?
Earlier Tuesday, lawyers for Brown’s family released the results of a family-ordered autopsy. Independent examination showed Brown was shot four times in the arm and once in the back of the head.
“He left, tried to save her life and they kept shooting and shooting him in the back of the neck,” family lawyer Harry Daniels said.
“Obviously he was trying to get away. It’s obvious. And they’re going to shoot him in the back of the neck? Ferebee added.
Lawyers for the family said they welcomed the FBI’s involvement in the case to “overcome any local bias that could prevent justice from being done.” The office said it would work closely with the Justice Department “to determine whether federal laws have been violated.”
No criminal charges have been laid in this case.
Womble said in a statement that state law gave him the authority to decide whether to prosecute crimes in his district and that he stood “ready, willing and able to fulfill my statutory obligations.”
Cooper, however, said a special prosecutor should handle the case. “It would help assure Mr. Brown’s community and family that a decision on whether to prosecute the criminal charges is made without bias,” Cooper said in a statement.
State Attorney General Josh Stein said his office offered assistance to the local prosecutor and could not intervene unless asked.
Contribution: Jorge L. Ortiz