NEW DETAILS: Family views ‘snippet’ of video in fatal police shooting

Redacted video shows Andrew Brown with hands on steering wheel as multiple shots fired, lawyers say

After a last-minute delay, North Carolina authorities finally allowed family to view a heavily redacted version of body camera footage in last week’s deadly police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. — an unarmed Black man who apparently tried to drive off from sheriff’s deputies as they moved in to arrest him.

The private viewing of the video was delayed for more than an hour before a planned meeting between Brown’s family and county officials so that officials could blur some faces in the video to protect the integrity of the investigation, according to an attorney for Pasquotank County.

“This was an execution ... Andrew Brown was in his driveway, and his hands were on his steering wheel [when] officers ran up to the vehicle shooting."

- Family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter

Lawyers expressed outrage at the process after emerging from the closed-door session about 3 p.m. Monday.

New details

Only two family members were allowed in to see a small clip of the video, which was about 20 seconds long, said family attorney Ben Crump, who gave a press conference after the meeting.

“Let’s be clear, this was an execution,” said family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, who took notes as she watched the video with the family members. “Andrew Brown was in his driveway, and his hands were on his steering wheel [when officers] ran up to his vehicle shooting.”

The video seen by the family did not begin from the start of the confrontation with Brown, lawyers said.

Attorneys said shots were already being fired at the man as the 20-second video began.

Lassiter said Brown’s hands remained on the steering wheel as officers continued shooting at him.

At one point Brown began to back out the driveway to escape the gunfire and managed to pull away until the car came to rest after crashing into a tree. Lassiter said officers had the vehicle surrounded and were chasing the vehicle on foot while still firing their guns at Brown.

She said at least seven or eight officers were on the scene and that assault rifles may have been used to shoot Brown. Only one officer’s bodycam footage was shown to the family and no other footage or dashcam video was presented to the family.

Multiple shots were heard being fired in the video, Lassiter said. Attorneys said they believed the officers had started firing well before the video began.

Some of the officers were SWAT team members and some may have been plain-clothed, lawyers said.

Crump accused the department of an ongoing cover-up.

“We do not feel that we got full transparency,” he said. “We only saw a snippet of the video.”

The redactions took more than an hour to complete, at which time family was allowed inside to view the video, according to family attorneys.

“They only showed one body cam video, when we know there were several videos,” Crump said.

The move to redact the video came after days of protests that put growing pressure on Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II, who finally petitioned the court Monday for release of the footage.

The family finally saw the shortened video Monday hours after a death certificate was issued in the case, stating Brown died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to reports. Family attorneys plan another press conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday, where they will release findings from an independent autopsy on Brown.

One Brown family attorney, Harry Daniels, revealed Monday that he received a phone call from county officials earlier in the day that informed him the meeting with the family would be delayed so footage could be redacted before being shown to the them.

Other attorneys for the family, including Bakari Sellers, gave an earlier press conference outside city municipal offices Monday continuing to call for the video’s public release, saying “police can’t sweep this under the rug.”

Protesters chanted “Justice,” “Release the video,” and “We can’t breathe” while also repeating Brown’s name as attorneys took turns providing individual updates on the case. Later Monday, protesters blocked the bridge over Pasquotank River in Elizabeth City, according to reports.

The 20-second video was not made available to the general public.

Anticipating unrest in the community, Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker declared a state of emergency ahead of the family seeing the footage, which many hoped would shed light on why deputies opened fire last Wednesday.

Pasquotank deputies descended on Brown’s Elizabeth City residence to serve felony drug arrest warrants and other search warrants when he was shot and killed. Wooten said multiple deputies fired shots but he disclosed few other details.

Wooten cited an “active criminal investigation” by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation as the reason he could not answer many questions about the case.

At a press briefing the day after the shooting, officials promised transparency in the case but refused to release video of the incident, saying they lacked the legal authority to do so.

“Only a judge can release the video,” Wooten said last week. “That’s why I’ve asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to confirm for me that the releasing of the video will not undermine their investigation. Once I get that confirmation, our county will file a motion in court, hopefully Monday, to have the footage released.”

Under North Carolina law, a judge must generally sign off on the release of law enforcement body camera footage.

In the days following the shooting, racial justice advocates, community leaders, clergy, Brown’s relatives, and leaders of the Elizabeth City government have demanded the release of the footage, along with a coalition of media have also filed a petition in court to make it public.

The state’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper also issued a statement calling for the swift release of the footage.

All the while, protesters took to the streets demanding to know exactly what happened.

Wooten and Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg issued a statement late Thursday suggesting deputies at the scene feared Brown was a dangerous suspect due to his criminal history.

Nearby Dare County had issued two arrest warrants for Brown on drug-related charges including possession with intent to sell cocaine. Brown, 42, had a criminal history dating back to the 1990s, including past drug convictions.

Police on a drug task force reportedly watched Brown for more than a year prior to the shooting, according to WAVY TV reporter Jason Marks.

Over the weekend, seven deputies were placed on administrative leave and three others resigned, although the department said the resignations were unrelated to the shooting.

Initially, witnesses at the scene were the only ones to provide early accounts of the shooting in which Brown was mortally wounded as officers executed a search warrant about 8:30 a.m. April 21 at Brown’s residence just west of the Outer Banks.

One witness who lives on Perry Street where the shooting happened said Brown began driving away when one of the deputies fired into his car multiple times. At least six to eight shots were heard before Brown’s vehicle skidded out and eventually hit a tree, Demetria Williams said in interviews with local news stations.

“When they opened the door, he was already dead,” Williams told The Associated Press. “He was slumped over.” She said officers tried to perform chest compressions, but it was too late.

A car authorities removed from the scene was marked with multiple bullet holes, and the rear window was blasted out.

The deputies who opened fire were wearing active body cameras at the time of the shooting, said Wooten, who would not identify the officers nor how many shots were fired.

No deputies were injured, and at least one deputy was placed on administrative leave pending a review by the State Bureau of Investigation, Wooten said.

Family members said Brown, a father of seven children, had no weapons and was unarmed at the time.

Wooten and other officials have not confirmed the family or eyewitness version of events.

The State Bureau of Investigation will turn the findings of its review over to District Attorney Andrew Womble, who pledged a thorough and deliberate inquiry.

“What we are looking for at this time will be accurate answers and not fast answers,” Womble told a news conference. “We’re going to wait for the full and complete investigation ... and we’ll review that and make any determinations that we deem appropriate at that time. This will not be a rush to judgment.”

The shooting happened as police departments across the country are facing increased scrutiny from the public following a series of recent high-profile police killings and custody deaths of unarmed Black men and women.

The incident in Elizabeth City came one day after police in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl who was involved in an altercation with two girls and lunged at one or both of them with a knife.

Another recent police shooting of an unarmed Black man occurred April 11 outside Minneapolis when 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed during a traffic stop in which Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter said she mistakenly fired her gun instead of a Taser.

Both episodes occurred during the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty Tuesday on three counts of killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes last year.

“When is it going to stop?” Rivers asked. “Is it open season now? At some point, it has to stop. We have to start holding the people in charge accountable.”

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