Body camera footage of fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. will not be released, ruled by judge

Allows family to view recordings
Originally Published: 28 APR 21 02:24 ET
Updated: 28 APR 21 14:57 ET

(CNN) — A North Carolina judge ruled Wednesday that video from four body cameras associated with last week’s shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. will not be released publicly at this time.

The judge also granted, in part, a petition from the Pasquotank County sheriff’s office allowing Brown’s family and one of their legal representatives to view the videos — but they will not be allowed to receive copies or make recordings.

Those rulings came after a district attorney said during Wednesday’s hearing that Brown’s moving vehicle made contact with law enforcement officers twice during the encounter in which deputies shot him dead in Elizabeth City on April 21.

Sheriff’s deputies fatally shot Brown, 42, while trying to execute a warrant, authorities have said.

At Wednesday’s hearing on whether the body camera footage would be released, Andrew Womble, the district attorney for the county, described what he said was video captured by multiple cameras.

In the video, Brown is in a stationary car when officers approach, shouting commands, Womble said.

As officers attempt to open one of the car’s doors, the car backs up, making contact with an officer, Womble said. The car then stops, before moving forward and again makes contact with law enforcement, Womble said.

After the car moves forward, shots are heard, Womble said.

Womble criticized comments that one of the attorneys for Brown’s family, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, previously made about video of the incident.

Authorities on Monday showed the family what the relatives said was 20 seconds of video. Afterward, Cherry-Lassiter said the video showed an “execution,” and showed deputies shooting at Brown as he sat in his vehicle with his hands on the steering wheel.

Cherry-Lassiter’s comments were false and “designed to prejudice a proceeding,” Womble said at Wednesday’s hearing.

The court ruling on the videos

The shooting prompted days of protests in Elizabeth City, with demonstrators and Brown’s family calling for the public release of the video. The sheriff’s department had not said what led the officers to fire.

County authorities had said North Carolina law dictated that the video couldn’t be released without a court order.

The county sheriff said he filed a petition for the videos’ release. A media coalition including CNN also petitioned for the footage to be publicly released.

On Wednesday, the judge denied the media coalition’s petition, ruling that the media was not a party contemplated for release under the relevant North Carolina statute.

He also ruled that, even if the media was able to petition for release, the factors in the statute did not weigh in favor of release.

The judge went on partly grant the sheriff’s petition, allowing the disclosure of the body camera footage to the family of Brown and one their legal representatives.

The disclosure means the family and an attorney can view the videos but will not be given their own copies or allowed to make recordings.

The judge also ruled that the deputies’ identifying information, such as their faces and badge numbers, must be blurred before being shown to the family.

The judge indicated that he may rule to release the video to the family at a later time, meaning they would have full access to the video.

Family attorney: This was … ‘an extrajudicial killing’

On Tuesday, one of the attorneys representing Brown’s family expressed outrage at newly obtained surveillance video showing deputies arriving on the scene April 21.

CNN obtained the video. It is not clear what is being said in the video or when the shooting started.

“This was, in fact, an extrajudicial killing, an execution if you will,” Brown family attorney Wayne Kendall told CNN’s John Berman on Tuesday. “Mr. Brown’s car never moved toward those deputies.”

The family’s attorneys provided more information Tuesday with the release of an independent autopsy.

Brown had been shot four times in the right arm and was trying to drive away from Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies when he was hit in the head, Kendall said, citing an autopsy performed by Dr. Brent Hall.

“He was trying to run because he was scared for his life,” Kendall said.

City declares state of emergency over protests

Protests have been peaceful since the death of Brown last week.

Concerned about potential unrest, Elizabeth City declared a state of emergency Monday and instituted a curfew that started at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’re usually a kind of quiet town, and we’re just sometimes playing stuff by ear because we’ve just never had something like this before,” Mayor Bettie Parker said of the curfew. “We’ve got to do some healing here because people are hurt.”

As police told the crowd to disperse Tuesday, protesters responded to the PA announcement by shouting, “No justice, no peace!”

Despite the announcements, dozens of protesters remained after curfew began.

There was also a war of words between the family attorneys and local law enforcement officials.

On Tuesday, the county took issue with statements by Cherry-Lassiter and others that Brown’s death was an “execution.”

“This is unproven hyperbole that only inflames the community and — should this matter ever go to court — could bias potential jurors and perhaps interfere with a fair trial for anyone involved,” officials said on a “Check the Facts” page on the county website.

What we know about the shooting

Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies were authorized to look for crack cocaine, other controlled substances and “evidence of criminal activity” in Brown’s two vehicles and his residence, according to a search warrant signed by a judge on April 20.

The copy of the warrant obtained by CNN was marked as “not executed.” In the first news conference about the shooting, Wooten said Brown was killed as deputies were attempting to execute the search warrant, but he later stated Brown was killed as deputies served an arrest warrant.

CNN has not been able to obtain the arrest warrant.

In the body camera footage shown to the family, Brown is in his car in the driveway, blocked by the sheriff’s department and sitting with his hands on the steering wheel, Cherry-Lassiter said.

Deputies ran up to his car, shooting as Brown put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway, Cherry-Lassiter said. Deputies continued to shoot at him as he drove off, she said.

“What the 20 seconds shows is that Andrew Brown is not a threat to officers,” she told CNN on Tuesday. “As he was being shot at, Andrew was trying to back away from the officers and save his life, save his own life.”

CNN has not seen the video and has not been able to independently verify the family attorneys’ account of the video. Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case until all the evidence is collected.

Brown’s aunt Betty Banks said the family was told that authorities did not find any drugs or weapons in Brown’s car or in his house.

Seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave following the shooting, two others have resigned and one deputy retired, Wooten said. Not all the deputies who were placed on administrative leave discharged their firearms, he added, but they were all part of the warrant operation.

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