Judge Declines Immediate Release of Video in North Carolina Shooting


Last Updated

Andrew Brown Jr. was killed last week by sheriff’s deputies.

ImageDemonstrators gathered in support of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Tuesday. 
Credit…Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — A North Carolina judge on Wednesday declined to immediately release the body-camera footage in the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr., agreeing with a prosecutor to delay its public dissemination for at least 30 days.

The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and lawyers for a group of media outlets, including The New York Times, petitioned Judge Jeff Foster to release the videos in a hearing that came after days of demands by protesters and elected officials to make the footage public.

Judge Foster denied the release altogether to the media outlets, saying they did not have legal standing to request the videos, but said that Mr. Brown’s family could view the footage. He directed the authorities to make redacted versions of the videos from five body cameras and one dashboard camera available within 10 days to Mr. Brown’s adult son, Khalil Ferebee, and his immediate family within one degree of kinship, plus one lawyer licensed to practice law in the state of North Carolina.

In arguments before Judge Foster, the local prosecutor, Robert Andrew Womble, said the body-camera footage shows that Mr. Brown struck deputies with his car while trying to escape and that deputies did not begin firing until after that moment.

Members of Mr. Brown’s family, plus one of the family’s lawyers, were shown 20 seconds of redacted footage on Monday. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, the lawyer, said the footage showed Mr. Brown sitting inside his car, hands “firmly on the wheel,” when deputies began shooting.

But Mr. Womble, at the hearing, called that account “patently false.”

Also at the hearing, a lawyer for the Pasquotank County deputies involved in the shooting death said the killing was justified.

Mr. Womble, in arguing to delay the public release of the footage by at least 30 days, also said that if charges are brought against the deputies, he would not want the video shown until their trial.

The hearing came amid simmering tension in Elizabeth City, a majority-Black city of about 18,000 people. Residents have been peacefully protesting in the streets since the death of Mr. Brown, who was Black. On Tuesday, the city and surrounding Pasquotank County, both already under self-imposed states of emergency, established nightly curfews from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

On Tuesday, lawyers for the family, including Ben Crump, who has represented the families of George Floyd and several other people killed by the police, continued to express anger that they were shown only a snippet of what must have transpired, saying that Mr. Brown had been subject to an “execution.”

Deputies from the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office fired several times at Mr. Brown after arriving at his house on April 21 to serve drug warrants, according to Ms. Cherry-Lassiter. Seven deputies were placed on administrative leave after the killing.

The shooting continued, she said, as Mr. Brown drove away. Lawyers for the family have asserted that Mr. Brown, 42, was unarmed.

The Sheriff’s Office filed a petition in state court late Monday asking that the footage be released to Mr. Brown’s adult son, Khalil Ferebee, after mounting pressure from a range of officials, including Gov. Roy Cooper and the Elizabeth City Council, that it be made public. Under state law, only a judge can authorize the release of body camera footage.

Sheriff Tommy Wooten II, who has faced calls to resign from the local N.A.A.C.P., has said that he supports the release of the footage as long as it would not jeopardize the investigation into the shooting by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

The findings of an official government autopsy have not been publicly released. But Wayne Kendall, one of the lawyers for the family, said on Tuesday that an independent pathologist concluded that Mr. Brown was shot four times in his right arm and once in the back of his head, a finding that supported the lawyers’ contention that Mr. Brown had been shot while fleeing the scene.

“This, in fact, was a fatal wound to the back of Mr. Brown’s head as he was leaving the site, trying to evade being shot at by these particular law enforcement officers who we believe did nothing but a straight-up execution,” Mr. Kendall said.

The shooting of Mr. Brown took place one day after a jury found a former Minneapolis police officer guilty of murder in the killing of Mr. Floyd and as police violence against Black people has come under intense scrutiny across the country.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on Tuesday that it had opened a civil rights investigation into the North Carolina shooting.

And Mr. Cooper, in a tweet, said he had appointed a special prosecutor who would “help assure the community and Mr. Brown’s family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias.”

Mr. Cooper said his position reflected the recommendation, made in a recent state task force report on criminal justice reform, to appoint a special prosecutor to handle all police use-of-force cases.





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *