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Andrew Brown Jr. Family Lawyers Say Video Shows An 'Execution'

Protesters march last week in Elizabeth City, N.C., after the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr.
Sean Rayford
Getty Images
Protesters march last week in Elizabeth City, N.C., after the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr.

Updated April 26, 2021 at 4:49 PM ET

Attorneys for Andrew Brown Jr.'s family said Monday they were frustrated only to be shown 20 seconds of body camera footage of sheriff's deputies shooting and killing Brown last week.

But what they did see amounted to an "execution," family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter told reporters.

Sheriff's deputies shot and killed Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, while carrying out search and arrest warrants at his home Wednesday in Elizabeth City, N.C.

Family attorneys said the footage began with deputies firing at Brown, who had his hands on the steering wheel of his vehicle while being shot at in his driveway. Cherry-Lassiter said Brown then drove his vehicle away from the deputies while they continued to shoot. She said Brown did not present a threat to the deputies. Deputies continued to shoot after Brown's car crashed, she added, saying his vehicle was "riddled" with bullets.

"It's just messed up how this happened," Brown's son Khalil Ferebee said. "He got executed. It ain't right."

Cherry-Lassiter said about seven or eight law enforcement officers were present in the video.

"We do not feel that we got transparency," family attorney Ben Crump told reporters. "We only saw a snippet of the video."

Attorneys said they wanted to see footage from before the shooting began, but that Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox only allowed the "pertinent" portion to be shown. Brown family lawyers said they expected there to be additional law enforcement bodycam video from all the deputies involved as well as a light pole camera.

Pasquotank County officials said they're still working to release the video to the public — a process that is required to go through the courts.

Brown's family was allowed to see the portion of footage early Monday afternoon after a delay in which officials said they needed time to blur faces in the video.

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II has said his office is asking a court to approve the video's release. That step is required by North Carolina law as agencies generally do not have the authority to make such recordings public. Wooten also said he asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to confirm that doing so would not undermine its investigation into Brown's death.

Brown family lawyers said a court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday on the matter of releasing the footage to media organizations.

A state of emergency is now in effect in Elizabeth City, the county seat. The city also closed all its government offices for the day, citing the potential for public unrest once the video becomes public.

At the time of the shooting, deputies were carrying out search and arrest warrants related to alleged cocaine and methamphetamine possession and distribution, Carolina Public Press reported.

Earlier, Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker said in an emergency declaration issued Monday morning that the video and audio recordings would likely be released "in the very near future."

"City officials realize there may potentially be a period of civil unrest within the City following the public release of that footage," she said.

City police also announced downtown road closures around the county courthouse and sheriff's office on Monday, saying the streets "are closed for citizens exercising their constitutional right to a peaceful protest."

Brown's death immediately resulted in protests in Elizabeth City; police said over the weekend the demonstrations had not resulted in property damage or arrests.

As The Associated Press reported, scanner traffic suggests that Brown was shot in the back:

"Recordings of scanner traffic compiled by from the morning of the shooting include emergency personnel indicating that Brown was shot in the back. An eyewitness has said that deputies fired shots at Brown as he tried to drive away, and a car authorities removed from the scene appeared to have multiple bullet holes and its back windshield shattered."

Brown died one day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd — a case that inflamed nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

The Elizabeth City mayor is calling for North Carolina to change its laws to streamline the release of footage from officer-worn cameras, saying a delay of up to 48 hours should be sufficient.

Initial details about Brown's death "are tragic and extremely concerning," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said on Friday. He added, "The body camera footage should be made public as quickly as possible and the SBI should investigate thoroughly to ensure accountability."

Seven sheriff's deputies have since been placed on administrative leave. Three others resigned, though the sheriff's office said the resignations were not related to the shooting.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.