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This is a developing story and includes updates from April 27, 2021 and April 28, 2021.
Pasquotank County Attorney Mike Cox signed off on the release of the body camera footage of the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. by sheriff’s deputies to Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee, according to a petition filed on Monday afternoon.
The filing was made on behalf of the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office, fulfilling a pledge by Sheriff Tommy Wooten II that he would request the public release of the body camera footage.
Cox’s filing includes a caution about release, stating that the recordings “contain the images and voices of officers involved that have not been publicly identified due to an active criminal or internal investigation.”
On Monday afternoon, Ferebee and Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, an attorney representing Brown’s minor children, viewed a 20-second redacted version of the footage from one camera. Attorneys for Brown’s family said the redaction was improper and called for full transparency by the county.
“This family had a fundamental right for transparency that was denied by the county officials of Pasquotank County, specifically the county attorney because he does not know how to interpret the laws of North Carolina,” attorney Harry Daniels said at a press conference Monday afternoon.
In a “Check the Facts” statement posted to their website Tuesday afternoon, county officials said the released footage was only 20 seconds long because “the entire encounter of engaging Mr. Brown and the use of deadly force lasted less than 20 seconds.”
“While there is additional body camera footage showing the deputies on scene attempting to provide first aid and perform CPR on Mr. Brown, the time needed to blur faces of the additional video would’ve delayed us from showing the family the video on Monday as they requested,” the statement read.
Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Brown on Wednesday morning while attempting to serve an arrest and search warrant.
By North Carolina law, body camera footage can only be released to the public by a Superior Court judge, who has the discretion to release all, part or none of the recordings, or to include video editing redactions such as blurring faces.
Multiple media outlets, including Carolina Public Press, filed a request to release the video footage to the public. Their petition, as well as the county’s, will be heard by a judge Wednesday morning.
Facts in dispute
On Wednesday morning at about 8:30 a.m, sheriff’s deputies moved to 421 Perry Street in Elizabeth City to serve search and arrest warrants for Brown.
Minutes later, a police dispatcher calls out shots fired. Then, a request for emergency medical services for Brown who was shot in the back, according to the radio calls.
Attorneys for the family said an independent autopsy showed four shots that did not hinder Brown from driving across an empty lot before crashing into a tree in a neighbor’s yard. He was hit with a fatal penetrating bullet wound to the skull, according to the independent autopsy.
“We believe this was nothing but a straight out execution by shooting him in the back of his head as he will try to get away in a moving vehicle,” said attorney Wayne Kendall, one of the Brown family legal team members.
The county’s “Check the Facts” site said use of the term execution is unwarranted.
“This is unproven hyperbole that only inflames the community and—should this matter ever go to court —could bias potential jurors and perhaps interfere with a fair trial for anyone involved,” the statement read.
Brown had his hands on the steering wheel and wasn’t fleeing, Harry Daniels, an attorney with the family’s legal team, said. “He was trying to run because he was scared for his life.”
The arrest warrants deputies went to the residence to serve were related to allegations of Brown’s possession with intent to sell controlled substances. The search warrant, which was returned unexecuted, was for Brown’s residence as well as two vehicles he was allegedly using for “keeping and selling a controlled substance.”
To serve those warrants, a joint effort with the Dare County sheriff’s office, the Pasquotank Sheriff’s department arrived on scene with the county’s version of a SWAT team, according to Sheriff Wooten.
Protests continue with curfew
On Tuesday, after six nights of protests, Elizabeth City officials issued an 8 p.m. curfew.
The protest organizers were not consulted, organizer Kirk Rivers said.
Every night, protesters gather near the sheriff’s department in downtown Elizabeth City and march on unplanned routes from there. No injuries and no property damage have been reported, and no arrests were made until Tuesday evening’s action.
On Tuesday night, 15 minutes before the 8 p.m. curfew, Rivers dismissed the protesters and a majority of them left, he said.
Rivers said some protesters stayed an additional hour between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. to demonstrate their displeasure with the curfew, particularly given that prior protests were without incident or arrest.
“We just felt like that, our track record has shown that we’ve been peaceful,” he said.
They occupied the intersection of Elizabeth and Waters streets, shutting down the Camden bridge. Police played a repeated warning over a loudspeaker, stating that a curfew is in effect and those violating the curfew are subject to arrest.
At 9 p.m., Rivers gathered the remaining protesters and dismissed them in much the same way he or other leaders of the marches have each night by offering words about police injustice and a plan for the following day.
Several members of the crowd walked away, but about two dozen protesters remained, mostly staying on the sidewalks. Three men sat down in the street and declared they would have to be arrested.
Several media outlets and legal observers were also present.
At 10:25 p.m., after nearly two and a half hours of warnings about arrests and the possible use of force, approximately 30 officers dressed in riot gear and carrying batons formed a line across the intersection.
“If you do not disperse immediately, you will be arrested and subject to other police actions,” the police warning, played over a loudspeaker, said. “Other police actions may include arrest, actual physical removal, the use of riot control agents and our less-lethal munitions, which could cause risk of injury to those who remain. You must leave now.”
The officers in riot gear marched slowly in a line, with several pauses, up to the group still sitting in the street, then arrested them.
Some protesters on the sidewalks yelled at the police, but there were no physical altercations. At 10:45 p.m., the officers left and, minutes later, so did the remaining protesters.
Wednesday at 10 a.m., the court hearing for the release of the body camera footage begins, and protesters plan to gather outside the courthouse. Also at 10 a.m., protesters plan to go to city hall a block away and ask to meet with city leaders about why they instituted a curfew.
At 2 p.m., religious leaders are planning a march from Mount Lebanon A.M.E. Zion Church to 421 Perry Street, where Brown was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies.
At 5 p.m., the protests will begin again, Rivers said, and he plans to ask people to stay rather than disperse if the city officials cannot justify to the protesters’ satisfaction why they instituted an 8 p.m. curfew.