County judge refuses to release body camera footage of Andrew Brown Jr. killing

A judge in Pasquotank County has denied a petition from several media outlets to release to the public the body camera footage related to the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. Brown was shot dead by Pasquotank County sheriff deputies when they were serving a warrant on April 21.

Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster said that the videos are of public interest, but contended that they contain sensitive information and risk jeopardizing the safety and reputation of individuals involved in the video. He also cited ongoing investigation and court proceedings for his decision, saying, “The release at this time will create a serious threat to the fair and impartial and orderly administration of justice.”

However, the court did rule that the five videos must be disclosed to Brown’s immediate family and one lawyer within 10 days. The Pasquotank sheriff’s office will be able to redact and blur any identifying information including facial features and name tags under the judge’s order.

The judge said he will consider the time frame of the video to be disclosed. “There were certain portions in the video that were conversations between officers, between superiors,” Foster said. “I’m going to evaluate those videos to determine which portions were appropriate to … disclose.”

In terms of public viewing, the judge ruled the video must be held from release for at least 30 days from now but no more than 45 days, pending completion of investigation. Currently, the office of local District Attorney Andrew Womble and the state Bureau of Investigation are investigating, as well as the FBI.

“I want to confirm that Special Agents of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) are continuing to conduct a comprehensive, objective, and thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Andrew Brown, Jr,” Robert L. Schurmeier, the director of North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation wrote in a news release earlier in the morning.

Schurmeier, however, said the bureau deferred to local courts concerning the release of any video.

The judge said that the state should notify the court when the investigation is complete. By then, the court will consider then whether to order the release of the video.

Brown’s death has led to multiple protests. Brown’s family members were shown a 20-second clip of the video on Monday. The mayor of Elizabeth City Bettie Parker declared a state of emergency the same day. Parker imposed an 8:00 pm curfew on Tuesday, and at least six protesters were arrested for violating the curfew later Tuesday night, Raleigh’s News & Observer reported.

WAVY News reported that Brown’s family watched the video between 10 and 20 times, saying that Brown was driving away with his hands on the wheel when deputies approached him opened fire. The family called the shooting an “execution.”

The Pasquotank sheriff’s office has not responded to a public records request by Policy Watch seeking names of the deputies involved in the shooting and any change of position after the shooting.

The full oral ruling can be viewed here and the hearing here.

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