District Attorney Andrew Womble asserted in a North Carolina court on Wednesday that Andrew Brown Jr.’s vehicle “made contact” with sheriff’s deputies twice before officers shot him five times, killing him as he attempted to flee the scene, and he called out comments by the the family’s attorney as “patently false.”
Superior Court Judge Jeffery Foster ruled at a hearing at the Pasquotank County Courthouse that the bodycam footage from the incident on April 21 would be delayed for public release for at least 30 days, and no longer than 45 days. He feared the identities of the officers would become public, putting them and their families at risk, Fox News reported.
He was also apparently concerned the footage could prejudice the jury in the case and impede the investigation into the officer-involved shooting. Seven officers have been put on administrative leave since the shooting.
The DA contends that the video footage shows that Brown’s car hit the deputies twice as he attempted to leave his home in Elizabeth City, North Carolina: “As it backs up, it does make contact with law enforcement officers,” Womble noted, before stating that the car stopped again. “The next movement of the car is forward. It is in the direction of law enforcement and makes contact with law enforcement. It is then and only then that you hear shots.”
Officers reportedly went to the residence to serve drug-related arrest warrants. After the judge viewed the footage for himself, the DA requested that he publicly admonish Brown’s family attorneys for falsely depicting the shooting as an execution.
(Video Credit: CNBC Television)
Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, who is an attorney representing the Brown family, also saw the 20 seconds of footage on Monday. She claimed at a press conference afterward that she took three pages of notes during repeated viewings of the video. The attorney asserted that the footage shows “an execution” because Brown had his hands on the steering wheel and was not a threat to the deputies.
“Let’s be clear. This was an execution. Andrew Brown was in his driveway. The sheriff truck blocked him in his driveway so he could not exit his driveway,” Cherry-Lassiter said to reporters. “Andrew had his hands on his steering wheel – he was not reaching for anything, he was not touching anything, he wasn’t throwing anything around. He has his hands firmly on the steering wheel.”
The attorney claimed that the officers began firing at Brown while he was backing up and that he avoided hitting a police officer. She added that Brown then proceeded to drive away as the officers kept firing until he crashed into a tree.
“We watched this over and over and over to make sure we were sure about what was going on and what was transparent,” the attorney declared. “He finally tries to try to get away and he backs out – not going toward the officers at all. At no time in the 20 seconds that we saw was he threatening the officers in any kind of way.”
Brown’s family had an independent autopsy done. They released the findings of the medical examiner on Tuesday that indicated Brown was shot five times. Four times in his right arm and a fifth fatal shot to the back of his head.
The judge approved the viewing of the videos for Brown’s adult son, Khalil Ferebee, and other immediate family members as well as one licensed attorney in North Carolina within 10 days. The video will reportedly be edited to blur out the officers’ faces for their protection. Four videos from body cameras and a dashcam will be provided to the viewers.
(Video Credit: Fox News)
The judge denied a petition that was made by a media coalition for the release of footage. Both sides are demanding the videos be released but the judge is standing firm on his reasoning for not doing so.
“I wanted the body camera footage to be released to the public as soon as possible, and I’m disappointed it won’t happen immediately,” Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said in a statement. “Obviously, I’ll respect the judge’s ruling. Although we’re unable to show the public what happened right now, the independent investigators are working to complete their investigation. As soon as all of the important facts are given to me, I will act quickly to ensure accountability and I’ll be as transparent as I possibly can with the public.”
When North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) concludes its investigation, the judge will make another determination concerning the public release of the videos. Judge Foster reportedly spent hours reviewing the footage on Tuesday.
The FBI Charlotte Field Office announced on Tuesday that it would open a federal civil rights investigation into the matter.
“We are deeply disappointed by the judge’s decision to not make body camera footage from the involved officers available to be viewed by the public,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump and co-counsels Cherry-Lassiter, Bakari Sellers, and Harry Daniels said in a statement. “In this modern civil rights crisis where we see black people killed by the police everywhere we look, video evidence is the key to discerning the truth and getting well-deserved justice for victims of senseless murders.”
“Just look at the murder of George Floyd – if the world had not seen that clear and disturbing footage, there might not have even been an ounce of accountability for those officers. We refuse to be discouraged and vow to keep the pressure on these agencies until we get to the truth. We will not stop saying his name. Andrew Brown Jr.,” Crump proclaimed.
According to records, Andrew Brown Jr. had a 30-year rap sheet filling up more than 180 pages. Brown is said to have allegedly dealt cocaine, “crack” cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines.
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