The immediate family of Andrew Brown Jr. will have the chance Tuesday to view police body camera video of Brown’s death, following a judge’s order that authorized the viewing.
Brown was fatally shot April 21 when Pasquotank County deputies in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, were trying to execute a warrant.
Protesters and family members have called for the release of body camera footage to determine what led to the shooting that came amid national conversations over policing and racial bias.
According to state law, the sheriff’s office cannot release the video without a judge’s consent. A judge ruled last month that the family would be allowed to watch the videos, but that the body camera footage could not be made public for 30 days.
After petitions from the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and a media coalition, Judge Jeff Foster issued a written order allowing for Brown’s family and one of their legal representatives to view the videos — but they will not be allowed to receive copies or make recordings.
The judge filed his order Thursday night, according to a copy posted by the county. The order says the videos consist of almost two hours of footage. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Harry Daniels, one of Brown’s family attorneys.
Before the family views the footage, the judge ordered the sheriff’s office to blur the deputies’ facial features “to prevent identification pending the completion of any internal or criminal investigation into the actions of the deputies.”
Two members of Brown’s family and his family’s attorneys were initially shown a 20-second clip from a deputy’s body camera on April 26, according to Daniels. Another of the Brown family attorneys, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, said the 20-second clip showed an “execution.”
There are differing accounts of Brown’s shooting
In dispatch audio from April 21, when Brown was fatally shot, first responders can be heard saying a man had gunshot wounds to the back. A copy of Brown’s death certificate says he died as a result of a gunshot wound of the head.
According to the arrest warrant, issued on April 20 and obtained by CNN on Thursday, Brown “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously did possess with the intent to sell and deliver a controlled substance, namely approximately three grams of cocaine.”
District Attorney Andrew Womble, who is responsible for the district that includes Pasquotank County, said officers fired when the car Brown was driving moved toward them. Brown’s family and attorneys said he was driving away to save his life from gunfire.
Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s son, said he saw his father driving away from the deputies, not toward them.
However, Womble said April 28 that Brown’s car in the video was stationary when officers approached shouting commands.
Womble said in the video, as officers attempted to open a door on the car, the vehicle backed up and made contact with an officer. He said the car then stopped before moving forward and again made contact with law enforcement. After the car moved forward, shots are heard, Womble said.
Attorneys for Brown’s family called for Womble to recuse himself from the case, citing “well-defined” conflicts between the prosecutor and the sheriff’s office.
“There is no doubt all seven officers involved, including the three shooters, have worked directly with you and your office for years in prosecuting various cases,” the family attorneys wrote in a letter to Womble last week.
The letter, signed by family attorney Bakari Sellers, asked that “in the interest of fairness, transparency and pursuit of the ends of justice” Womble move the case to another jurisdiction and “immediately recuse yourself.”
“You and your office not only work with Sheriff Wooten and his deputies daily, your office physically resides in the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s department,” the attorneys wrote. “The conflict is well-defined.”
A state investigation into Brown’s death “remains ongoing,” a spokesperson for North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation told CNN on Tuesday.
Public information officer Anjanette Grube said that, due to the many variables in the investigation, the agency was unable to provide a timeline of when it might conclude.