The mayor of Elizabeth City declared a state of emergency Monday as authorities in North Carolina worked to redact bodycam footage of the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. before allowing the Black man’s family and lawyers to view it.
The family and its representatives plan on viewing the video at the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office, lawyers said at a news conference where they urged immediate release of the video.
“City officials realize there may potentially be a period of civil unrest within the city following the public release of that footage,” Mayor Bettie Parker said in the emergency declaration.
Lawyer Harry Daniels said the family was told they could see the video at 11:30 a.m. Monday, only to be told about an hour before that time that the video was being redacted and would not be available until later in the day. The lawyers said they wanted the raw video, not a redacted version.
“What is on the video that is so damning?” lawyer Ben Crump asked.
Brown, a father of seven, was fatally shot Wednesday by deputies serving warrants in Elizabeth City. Few details of the shooting have been released, although a first responder can be heard on dispatch audio saying, “Be advised EMS has one male, 42 years of age, gunshot to the back.”
Sheriff Tommy Wooten has said that deputies shot and killed Brown while serving drug-related search and arrest warrants. The warrants say investigators used information from an informant, including recordings of drug buys, according to court documents released Monday.
Public release of the video, demanded by advocacy groups, requires court approval. Wooten has said he would seek that approval, but not until he is assured by the State Bureau of Investigation that the release would not compromise its probe.
Wooten, who has heard a chorus of calls for his resignation, won support Sunday from the chairman of the county commission. Chairman Lloyd Griffin asked the community for patience as the shooting investigation continues.
“Rushing the gathering of evidence and interviewing of witnesses would hurt any future legal case that might be brought in the wake of this tragedy,” Griffin said. “Justice, when done right, takes time.”
Griffin said an officer-involved shooting in Charlotte two years took three weeks for body camera footage to be legally released. Griffin said he hopes it doesn’t take that long this time, but said state law must be followed.
“The commissioners support Sheriff Wooten, who is trying to maintain public safety in our county while also being responsive to the needs of the Brown family and those concerned about this shooting,” Griffin said. “It’s easy to criticize and it’s hard to lead.”
Seven deputies have been put on paid administrative leave since the shooting. Daniels said Brown was shot in the back by deputies as he was attempting to flee. His death Wednesday came the day after former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, whose death was also caught on video and ignited a wave of national protests venting outrage over police treatment of people of color.
“The family is ready to see this bodycam footage,” Daniels told NBC News. “Nothing is guaranteed.”
Gov. Roy Cooper called the shooting “concerning” and urged public release of the video “as quickly as possible.”
Elizabeth City, 60 miles south of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the county seat and home to fewer than 18,000 residents, about half of them Black.
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