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Judge will not release Andrew Brown body cam video

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 7:34 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 1:33 PM EDT
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ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WITN) - A Superior Court judge today said he will not release deputy body camera video showing the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown, Jr.

WITN and about 15 other media companies sought the release of the video. The family, protesters, and civil rights advocates have been making the same plea. There is a North Carolina law that says these can only be released by a judge.

Judge Jeffrey Foster said he will allow the immediate family of Brown to view the four body camera videos within 10 days. He said that would allow the sheriff’s office to blur or remove any identifiable information on the videos.

The judge said he believed the videos contained information that could harm the ongoing investigation or threaten the safety of people seen in the footage.

“The release at this time would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial and orderly administration of justice,” Foster said.

Foster said he will then decide in 30-45 days whether the videos will be released to the family. That would allow the SBI to complete its investigation into the shooting.

Brown was shot and killed last Wednesday morning as deputies were trying to serve a search warrant at his Perry Street home.

During the hearing, District Attorney Andrew Womble said that Brown had hit law enforcement officers with his car before they opened fire.

Womble told Judge Foster that he viewed body camera video and disagreed with the characterization by Brown family attorney Chantel Lassiter on Monday that Brown’s car was stationary when the shooting started. Womble said the video shows that Brown’s car made contact with law enforcement twice before shots could be heard on the video.

Following this morning’s decision by the judge, Lassiter stood by what she and Brown’s son were allowed to see in the 20 seconds of body camera footage provided by the county on Monday.

“At no time have I given any misrepresentations. I still stand by what I saw in that clippet. I told everyone what I saw. We have 20 seconds we watched it over and over to ensure that I tried the best I could not to miss anything,” Lassiter said.

“That’s the whole reason. If you have disputed facts, show the tape,” Brown attorney Harry Daniels added during the post-hearing press conference.

Sheriff Tommy Wooten said he was disappointed by the judge’s ruling as he wanted the video released.

WEDNESDAY MORNING STORY

The Pasquotank County district attorney says a man killed by deputies hit law enforcement officers with his car before they opened fire.

Andrew Brown, Jr. was shot and killed last Wednesday morning as deputies were trying to serve a search warrant on his Perry Street home.

District Attorney Andrew Womble told a judge at a hearing that he viewed body camera video and disagreed with a characterization by attorneys for the family of Brown that his car was stationary when the shooting started.

Womble said the video shows that Brown’s car made contact with law enforcement twice before shots could be heard on the video.

The information, the first time county officials have revealed what happened, was made during a hearing asking for deputy body camera video be released to the media.

The hearing, before Judge Jeffrey Foster, who is a Pitt County Superior Court judge, began around 10:15 a.m.

There are 15 other media companies pushing for the release of the video. The family, protesters, and civil rights advocates have been making the same plea. There is a North Carolina law that says these can only be released by a judge.

Pasquotank County attorney Michael Cox told the judge he does not feel the release of the video would impede the investigation into the shooting. But the district attorney feels the release would jeopardize any trial that may come after the SBI investigation is complete. Womble asked that if the video is released it be delayed for 30 days to give the SBI a chance to complete its investigation.

Judge Foster told attorneys that he will make a decision today whether or not to release the video.

A march is also planned for Wednesday one week after the shooting. Faith leaders plan to march at 11:30 a.m. from A.M.E. Zion Church in Elizabeth City to the scene where Brown was shot and killed.

Wednesday’s march comes a day after faith leaders from several churches held a news conference where they called for independent investigators to take over the case.

SBI STATEMENT

The State Bureau of Investigation director has released a statement regarding the investigation into the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr.

“I want to confirm that Special Agents of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) are continuing to conduct a comprehensive, objective, and thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Andrew Brown, Jr. It is customary that the State Bureau of Investigation investigate incidents of officer-involved shootings in North Carolina at the request of local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.

As an agency, we share the family and community’s sense of urgency to understand precisely what occurred during this incident. Our role is to pursue the truth and to ultimately share the results of our work with the prosecutor. To that end, I want to assure that the full resources of the NC SBI are being utilized to pursue an independent, thorough, and impartial investigation into the matter of Mr. Brown’s death. The family, the community, and all impacted by this event deserve no less and the SBI is fully committed to making sure that the true facts are known, no matter where those facts lead us.

As far as any relevant video, we defer to the local authorities and the courts to make that determination as guided by State law. The SBI supports transparency to the greatest extent possible, as we think this serves the interests of the family, the local community, and North Carolina as a whole.

Please know we will continue to investigate this matter with a full commitment to obtaining truth and justice for all concerned. That is central to the mission of this agency and will certainly be upheld with respect to the timely investigation of this matter.” - Robert L. Schurmeier, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation

STREET CLOSURES

Elizabeth City police say all streets from Road Street to Martin Street and from Elizabeth Street to Church Street are closed until further notice.

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