Judge denies public release of body cam footage in fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.

Family, lawyers and protesters have demanded the release of the video since the fatal shooting occurred on April 21.

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The body camera footage from officers involved in the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City, NC will not be released to the public.

Read More: FBI opens civil rights investigation into Andrew Brown Jr. shooting

According to the Washington Post, a judge on Wednesday held a court hearing to hear petitions to release the footage and ruled it will not be released to the public but will be disclosed to Brown’s family. Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster ruled against a petition filed by media outlets, including the Post. According to the newspaper, Judge Foster made his decision based on the release of the video potentially affecting a trial and putting deputies involved in danger.

Andrew Brown Jr. thegrio.com
A demonstrator holds a sign addressing Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten after an emergency city council meeting April 23, 2021 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Protestors were calling for the release of police body camera footage from the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. on April 21. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

On behalf of the media outlets, lawyer Mike Tadych argued “the eyes of the world are upon us,” citing the Derek Chauvin trial.

H.P. Williams, an attorney speaking on behalf of lawyers involved in the shooting, had an opposing opinion.

“There’s a difference between the public wanting to see the body cams and the public needing to see the body cams,” Williams said. “We don’t see a need for the public to see it at this point.”

The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation in the shooting death. Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten has said seven deputies are on leave pending results. Initially, the sheriff’s office did not release the footage, citing a state law requiring court approval before doing so.

“We believe they’re trying to hide the truth,” family attorney Benjamin Crump said according to the report. “If they were making transparency a priority, we would all have seen that video by now.” 

Andrew Brown Jr. thegrio.com
Glenda Brown Thomas displays a photo of her nephew, Andrew Brown Jr., on her cell phone at her home in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Thursday, April 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

theGrio reported Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said his office worked to attempt to set up a private viewing of the video footage for the family “immediately” once the request was issued Sunday. He continued by saying “the law also allows us to blur some faces on the video and that process takes time,” according to NPR. On Monday, the family was able to view 20 seconds of the video footage.

Per the Washington Post, the family will now see the full video in 30-45 days, when the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is expected to complete its investigation.

“Let’s be clear. This was an execution,” said attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter. “So they were shooting at him with his hands on the steering wheel in the driveway,” she said.

Read More: For 3 ex-cops, will blaming Chauvin for Floyd’s death work?

Ahead of the family’s viewing and potential public release, Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker declared a state of emergency. Demonstrations and protests in Elizabeth City, North Carolina have continued for nearly a week as protesters claim that officers showed a “blatant disregard” for Brown’s life in shooting him as he drove away. 

“City officials realize there may potentially be a period of civil unrest within the City following the public release of that footage,” she said according to the report.

The curfew, set in place on April 26, was modified on April 27, which mandates all children, youth, and adults to be off of the streets between 8:00 P.M., and 6:00 A.M. with exceptions for those traveling to or from work, and emergencies. Citizens are expected to visit stores, gas stations, and other non-emergency trips during non-curfew hours. The curfew is issued to remain in place until rescinded.

Community Protests In Elizabeth City, North Carolina Over Police Killing of Andrew Brown Jr.
Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker addresses members of the media on April 24, 2021 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. City officials are requesting the release of Pasquotank County Sheriffs Office body camera footage of the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. on April 21. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

An independent autopsy ordered by Andrew Brown Jr.’s family found he was shot five times, including in the back of the head. The autopsy was performed Sunday by North Carolina-based Dr. Brent Hall, a pathologist who noted the gunshot to the back of Brown’s head from an undetermined distance that penetrated his skull and brain with no exit wound.

“It was a kill shot to the back of the head,” Crump said.

The family’s lawyers also released a copy of the death certificate, which lists the cause of death as a “penetrating gunshot wound of the head.” It describes the death as a homicide. An autopsy conducted by the state has yet to be released.

This article contains additional reporting by theGrio’s Associated Press.

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