Six days after Andrew Brown Jr. was fatally shot by police, protesters gathered again Monday to call for the release of the police body camera footage they hope will answer questions surrounding his death.
Peaceful demonstrations have taken place in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, since Wednesday, when the 42-year-old Black man was fatally shot by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies attempting to serve a warrant.
Despite the calls to release video of the shooting, authorities say they are prevented from making the video public without a court order. The Sheriff’s Office said the Pasquotank County attorney filed a motion Monday with the court to release the video publicly, and a media coalition that includes CNN has also filed a petition for the release of the video.
On Monday, Brown’s family and attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter were privately shown a 20-second clip of the video that showed what she called an “execution.”
“What the 20 seconds shows is that Andrew Brown is not a threat to officers,” Cherry-Lassiter told CNN on Tuesday. “As he was being shot at, Andrew was trying to back away from the officers and save his life, save his own life.”
In a video statement posted to Facebook, Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten tried to downplay the importance of the videos.
“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,” he said.
Cherry-Lassiter said she did not believe the family was shown enough of the video to ensure transparency.
“They said that they showed us the pertinent parts. And although they said that it was a 30-second encounter, we don’t have any information to validate that,” she said.
Seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave following the shooting, two others have resigned and one deputy retired, Wooten 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.
More answers could come Tuesday when attorneys for the Brown family will hold a press conference to reveal the results of an independent autopsy.
The fatal shooting came just a day after former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. Still, the police killings of Brown, as well as others in Ohio and Virginia in the last week, highlight the pervasiveness of police violence in America.
The continued delay in releasing video of Brown’s death also highlights the increasing importance of police body cameras for transparency and accountability.
“We got a little bit of evidence, but that wasn’t enough for us,” Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “We’re heartbroken.”
What we know 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.
Cherry-Lassiter said the footage she saw of the shooting showed an “execution.” Brown was seen in his driveway, blocked in by the sheriff’s department, sitting with his hands on the steering wheel, she said.
“He wasn’t reaching for anything, he wasn’t touching anything, he wasn’t throwing anything around,” she said.
Deputies ran up to his car, shooting as Brown put the vehicle in reverse and backed out of the driveway, she said. Deputies continued to shoot at him as he drove off, Cherry-Lassiter said. The vehicle, riddled with bullet holes, crashed into a tree, she said.
CNN has not seen the video and has not been able to independently verify the family attorneys’ account of the video. 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.”
Video released publicly Monday by a bystander shows Brown’s car stopped near a tree and surrounded by several officers.
What authorities have released
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 about Brown’s death, 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.
CNN has also reached out to the county attorney for comment on the 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.
Marchers in Elizabeth City demonstrated Monday night outside Pasquotank County Attorney Michael Cox’s home, organizer Kirk Rivers and other protestors told CNN.
Protesters stayed for about 15 minutes, chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as well as “Black Lives Matter” and “Andrew Brown.” The march then headed toward the sheriff’s office.