Lawyers and a family member for Andrew Brown Jr. repeatedly referred to his death as an “execution’’ Monday while complaining they were only allowed to watch 20 seconds of body-camera video of his fatal encounter with law enforcement.
The mayor of Elizabeth City, the site of protests following the latest high-profile killing of a Black man by police, declared a state of emergency earlier in the day as authorities in North Carolina worked to redact the footage before allowing the family and lawyers to view it.
“We do not feel that we got transparency,” Benjamin Crump, one of the lawyers representing the family, said at a new conference. “We only saw a snippet of the video. … And they determined what was pertinent. Why couldn’t family see all of the video? They only showed only one body-cam video, even though we knew there were several.’’
Brown, a father of seven, was shot and killed by Pasquotank County Sheriff’s deputies serving a search warrant in Elizabeth City last week.
Protesters have demanded the video to be released publicly.
“There may potentially be a period of civil unrest within the city following the public release of that footage,” Mayor Bettie Parker acknowledged in the emergency declaration.
Monday’s developments may further stoke the furor about Brown’s death Wednesday, only a day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder in last May’s killing of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests against racial inequality and police brutality.
Henry Daniels, also representing the Brown family, said he was shot in the back of the head. Attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter watched the 20-second clip with Brown relatives and said he kept his hands in the steering wheel and did not appear to be a threat to officers, who shot as he backed his vehicle out and tried to drive away.
“My dad got executed just by trying to save his own life,” said Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s son. “Those officers were in no harm of him at all.”
Daniels said the family was told they could see the video at 11:30 a.m. Monday, only to be told about an hour before that time that the video was being redacted and would not be available until later in the day. County Attorney R. Michael Cox said in a statement that state law allows for blurring of faces to protect an active internal investigation, and “that process takes time.”
The lawyers said they wanted the raw video, not a redacted version.
“What is on the video that is so damning?” Crump asked.
Few details of the shooting have been released, although a first responder can be heard on dispatch audio saying, “Be advised EMS has one male, 42 years of age, gunshot to the back.”
Sheriff Tommy Wooten has said that deputies shot and killed Brown while serving drug-related search and arrest warrants. The warrants say investigators used information from an informant, including recordings of drug buys, according to court documents released Monday.
Public release of the video, demanded by advocacy groups, requires court approval. Wooten has said he would seek that approval, but not until he is assured by the State Bureau of Investigation that the release would not compromise its probe.
Wooten, who has heard a chorus of calls for his resignation, won support Sunday from the chairman of the county commission. Chairman Lloyd Griffin asked the community for patience as the shooting investigation continues.
“Rushing the gathering of evidence and interviewing of witnesses would hurt any future legal case that might be brought in the wake of this tragedy,” Griffin said. “Justice, when done right, takes time.”
‘We know you’re angry’: NC sheriff says he’ll ask judge to release bodycam video
Griffin said in an officer-involved shooting in Charlotte two years ago it took three weeks for body camera footage to be legally released. Griffin said he hopes it doesn’t take that long this time, but said state law must be followed.
“The commissioners support Sheriff Wooten, who is trying to maintain public safety in our county while also being responsive to the needs of the Brown family and those concerned about this shooting,” Griffin said. “It’s easy to criticize and it’s hard to lead.”
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Seven deputies have been put on paid administrative leave since the shooting. Daniels said Brown was shot in the back by deputies as he was attempting to flee.
Gov. Roy Cooper called the shooting “concerning” and urged public release of the video “as quickly as possible.”
Elizabeth City, 60 miles south of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the county seat and home to fewer than 18,000 residents, about half of them Black.
Contributing: The Associated Press