A North Carolina city declared a state of emergency Monday morning amid concerns that video showing the police killing of Andrew Brown Jr. could cause civil unrest when it’s released to the public.
Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies in Elizabeth City on Wednesday when they attempted to serve him with an arrest warrant, the sheriff’s office said.
Yet few details have been released about the shooting. In dispatch audio from that day, first responders can be heard saying a man had gunshot wounds to the back.
A copy of Brown’s death certificate obtained by CNN says he died as a result of a “penetrating gunshot wound of the head” and died within “minutes” of being shot. The certificate categorizes his death as a homicide, saying Brown was “shot by others.”
Since the shooting, peaceful protests throughout the city have called for officials to release the police body camera video of the shooting.
According to North Carolina law, police body camera footage can only be released to the public with a court order.
The shooting came just a day after former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd in the most high-profile case of the Black Lives Matter era. Still, the police killings of Brown, as well as others in Ohio and Virginia in the last week, emphasized the pervasiveness of police violence.
The delay in releasing video of Brown’s death also highlights the increasing importance of police body cameras for transparency and accountability. In Columbus, Ohio, officials released body camera footage of the police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant within hours.
In a press conference, Brown family attorney Harry Daniels said the family had expected to see the video on Monday, but he was informed earlier in the day that officials were still redacting parts of the video and that it wasn’t ready yet.
“Show the tape,” Daniels said in a press conference Monday. “If you ain’t got nothing to hide, show the tape.”
Pasquotank County Attorney Michael Cox said in a statement that the process of blurring some faces on the video took time.
“We’re glad that state law allows us to provide a private viewing of the body camera footage to the family of Mr. Brown and after we received their request on Sunday evening, we began working immediately to make that happen as soon as possible. The law also allows us to blur some faces on the video and that process takes time,” he said.
Citing state law, the statement continued, “This may be done when necessary to protect an active internal investigation. As soon as these redactions are complete, we will allow the family to view this footage. We hope this occurs today, but the actual time will be driven by the completion of the redactions.”
Family calls for transparency
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten has said the county plans to file a motion in court to have the footage released. In addition, a media coalition that includes CNN filed a petition in a North Carolina state court Monday morning pushing for the release of the video.
According to the city’s emergency proclamation, city officials will also file a formal request with the Sheriff’s Office for the public release of the video.
“It seems likely that the video and audio footage will be released in the very near future. In order to ensure the safety of our citizens and their property, City officials realize there may be a potential period of unrest within the City following the public release of the footage,” the proclamation says.
Brown’s family met with Wooten on Friday and thought they would be shown the body camera footage, but that didn’t happen, they told CNN.
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. The warrant that was being served on Brown when he was shot was related to felony drug charges, Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said.
“It’s clear to us there is something bad on that bodycam video,” Crump, who is representing Brown’s family, told CNN on Saturday. “Transparency is essential.”
Seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave following the shooting, two others have resigned and one deputy retired, Wooten told CNN. Not all the deputies who were placed on administrative leave discharged their firearms, he added, but they were all part of the warrant operation.
Elizabeth City, located in the northeast corner of North Carolina, has a population of just under 18,000 people, about half of whom are Black, according to the US Census.