North Carolina officials saw growing pressure Thursday to post body camera footage of the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a black man who was fatally shot and killed by a deputy sheriff on Wednesday morning in Elizabeth City.
Brown was unarmed when he was fatally shot, said Harry Daniels, the Brown family’s attorney. Testimony paints a picture of an “unlawful, unjustified murder” in which several police officers were shot while Brown escaped the scene in a vehicle, Daniels said at a news conference Thursday.
“My understanding is that there is body camera footage of this incident that has not yet been released. There is a lot of speculation – we ask for answers, accountability and transparency,” Daniels said. “This is something we are calling for immediate release.”
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation announced Thursday that it is continuing its investigation into the incident, but only the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s office or the district attorney’s office can publish the bodycam footage. No bureau immediately responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
For many, the sense of relief felt at the guilty verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd on Tuesday was short-lived. Just hours later, there were reports of more police killings, including those of Brown and 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who were fatally shot by police officers in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday evening.
Crowds – dozens at the site of the shooting and, later, hundreds protesting in the streets of Elizabeth City – urged police to provide further details immediately. Elizabeth City is approximately 170 miles northeast of Raleigh.
“The people of Elizabeth City … they want a right to know what happened this morning,” Councilor Darius J. Horton said Wednesday. “There is a moment of injury in Elizabeth City.”
The MP, who has not been identified, was serving a search warrant in Brown’s apartment building on Wednesday when Brown was fatally shot at around 8:30 a.m. According to a witness, Brown tried to drive away.
Demetria Williams, Brown’s neighbor, told the Associated Press that she ran outside after being shot and then saw the deputy shoot at Brown multiple times. She also said the car slipped off Brown’s yard and hit a tree.
“When they opened the door, he was already dead,” said Williams. “He was slumped.” She said officers tried to compress Brown’s chest.
Authorities removed a car from the scene that appeared to have multiple bullet holes and a broken rear window, the Associated Press reported.
What are protesters asking for?
When an emergency meeting of the city council was held on Wednesday, the protesters gathered outside and watched the livestream of the meeting on their phones, according to WAVY-TV.
The protests continued well into the night. Around 200 people marched downtown and asked the police to publish recordings from body cameras, the television station reported.
The protests ended before 10 p.m., but protesters vowed to be back at the sheriff’s office by 5 p.m. on Thursday if body camera footage is not released.
In a press conference Thursday, Keith Rivers, NAACP president of Pasquotank, said the sheriff’s department “failed to create transparency” by not making the footage public.
“Often times it’s not the plot, but it’s what we do after the plot that determines who and what we are,” said Rivers. “Publishing the footage from the body camera as soon as possible is a must to create the transparency our community needs.”
Councilor Quentin Jackson, who told WRAL he knew Brown, urged the sheriff to “give people answers.”
“No other leaders were out here in the county to stand out from the crowd,” Jackson said. “And the sheriff should get out of here.”
The city’s public schools said they introduced distance learning on Thursday “out of community concern and caution”, although they did not specifically cite protests.
What do we know about the deputy?
Sheriff Tommy Wooten II said at a press conference on Wednesday that the MP was wearing a body camera and was on leave.
Wooten did not identify the deputy. Nor did he say how many shots had been fired or what the arrest warrant against Brown was for.
“What we are looking for right now are accurate answers, not quick answers,” District Attorney Andrew Womble Womble told a news conference. “We will wait for the full investigation … and we will review and make whatever determinations we deem appropriate at this point. This will not be a rush for judgment. “
Who Was Andrew Brown Jr.
Williams said the neighbors knew Brown, 42, as Drew and he was not a violent person.
“He was not a threat to (officers). He left even though he was trying to get away, ”said Williams.
Brown’s aunt Martha McCullen, who said she raised him after his parents died, described him as a good person and a father.
“The police didn’t have to shoot my baby,” she told the Associated Press. “He was just about to bring his children back … Now his children will never see him again.”
According to Daniels, Brown had 7 children and cared for others who were not biologically his.
Court records show that Brown had a history of drug charges and one drug abuse conviction for a misdemeanor.
Contributor: The Associated Press