The family of a Black man who was fatally shot by deputies in North Carolina last week were shown Monday a short snippet of police body camera footage that one family attorney described as an execution.
Andrew Brown Jr., 42, 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.
Few details — and no video — have been released publicly 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 his death certificate says he died as a result of a gunshot wound of the head.
On Monday afternoon, after an earlier delay, Pasquotank County Attorney Michael Cox showed Brown’s family and attorneys a short clip from one deputy’s body camera that family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said showed an “execution.”
Cherry-Lassiter said the video was 20 seconds long and shows deputies shot at Brown as he sat in his vehicle with his hands on the steering wheel. “He wasn’t reaching for anything, he wasn’t touching anything, he wasn’t throwing anything around,” she said.
Brown then put the vehicle in reverse and backed out of the driveway, and deputies shot at him as he drove off, she said. The vehicle, riddled with bullet holes, crashed into a tree, she said.
The family’s attorneys decried the lack of transparency and disrespect in only showing a short clip from a single deputy’s body camera. About seven or eight deputies, each presumably equipped with a body camera, were on scene, Cherry-Lassiter said.
In a video statement posted to Facebook, Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten said: “This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds, and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher. They only tell part of the story.”
The sheriff has said there were “many” body cameras at the scene.
Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case until all the evidence is collected.
“They are trying to hide something,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said. “They don’t want us to see everything.”
Khalil Ferebee, one of Brown’s sons, told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360˚” that the family was heartbroken.
“We got a little bit of evidence but that wasn’t enough for us,” he said.
Bakari Sellers, a Brown family attorney, said Cox tried to prevent several of the attorneys from viewing the video in the first place.
“Mr. Cox told me, a grown Black man, that he was not f***ing going to be bullied,” Sellers said.
CNN has reached out to Cox for comment but has not received a reply.
CNN has not seen the video and has not been able to independently verify the family attorneys’ account of the video.
Marchers in Elizabeth City demonstrated Monday night outside Cox’s home, organizer Kirk Rivers and other protestors told CNN.
Protesters stayed for about 15, chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as well as “Black Lives Matter” and “Andrew Brown.” It was unknown whether Brown was at the home.
The march then headed toward the sheriff’s office.
Seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave following the shooting, two others have resigned and one deputy retired, Wooten has said. Not all the deputies who were placed on administrative leave discharged their firearms, he added, but they were all part of the warrant operation.
The fatal 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.
Family calls for transparency
According to North Carolina law, law enforcement body camera footage can only be released to the public with a court order.
Fogg said in the video statement that the county attorney on Monday filed a motion in court to have the footage released. A media coalition that includes CNN also filed a petition in a North Carolina state court Monday morning pushing for the release of the video.
CNN has also reached out to the county attorney for comment on release of the footage.
Elizabeth City declared a state of emergency Monday morning amid concerns that the video’s release could lead to civil unrest. 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.
Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies were authorized to look for crack cocaine, other controlled substances and “evidence of criminal activity” in Brown’s two vehicles and his residence, according to a search warrant signed by a judge on April 20.
The copy of the search warrant obtained by CNN was marked as “not executed.” In the first news conference on Brown’s death from Sheriff Wooten, Wooten said Brown was killed as deputies were attempting to execute the search warrant. In a later news conference, Wooten stated Brown was killed as deputies served an arrest warrant.
CNN has not been able to obtain the arrest warrant.
According to the search warrant, PCSO Investigator D. Ryan Meads received information from the Dare County Narcotics Task Force in March of 2021 “regarding the illegal sales of controlled narcotics by Andrew Brown residing on Perry St. in Elizabeth City.”
The task force had been in touch with an informant who claimed to have been buying drugs from Brown for over a year, including at his home or at motels/hotels, according to the warrant.
However, 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.
Elizabeth City, located in the northeast corner of North Carolina, has a population of about 18,000 people, about half of whom are Black, according to the US Census.