North Carolina Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster rejected bids on Wednesday to publicly release bodycam footage in the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. The ruling is accompanied, however, by an order for the sheriff to allow Brown’s immediate family members and lawyers to view the footage independently.
Under North Carolina law, while anyone may request for bodycam footage to be released, only a judge may approve that release to the public. The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department currently has six video files of the shooting, five from bodycam footage and the other from a police cruiser’s dashcam. The footage will continue to be withheld for no more than 45 days as the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) moves forward with its probe into the incident. Once findings by the SBI are released, Foster will make another determination.
Brown, 42, was fatally shot on April 21 when sheriff’s deputies were trying to execute a warrant at his home. At Wednesday’s hearing, Andrew Womble, the district attorney for Pasquotank described what was captured in the footage. The footage allegedly shows Brown stationary in his car, but when officers approach, the car moves forward and backwards, making contact with law enforcement officers. Once the car moves forward again, multiple shots are heard. Brown’s family’s legal team says that an independent autopsy shows Brown died from a gunshot wound to the back of his head, referring to it as “an execution.”
The legal team, spearheaded by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, issued a statement responding to the judge’s ruling:
We are deeply disappointed by the judge’s decision to not make the body camera footage from the involved officers available to be viewed by the public. In this modern civil rights crisis where we see Black people killed by the police everywhere we look, video evidence is the key to discerning the truth and getting the well-deserved justice for victims of senseless murders.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper also commented on the release of the video:
Initial reports of the shooting in Elizabeth City and death of Andrew Brown Jr. this week are tragic and extremely concerning. The body camera footage should be made public as quickly as possible, and the SBI should investigate thoroughly to ensure accountability.
While the public will have to wait for the release of the footage, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, declared a state of emergency in response to protests sparked by the killing, which includes a curfew that began at 8 PM on Tuesday. Seven deputies have been placed on leave and the FBI has formally launched a civil rights investigation into the matter.