A North Carolina judge ruled Wednesday against the public release of body camera footage showing the fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. for at least 30 days so that authorities can complete an investigation into his death.
Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster denied requests to immediately release video taken from four police body cameras and one police dashcam of the shooting, which occurred while multiple deputies were serving a search warrant in Elizabeth City, N.C., on April 21.
While Foster agreed that releasing the footage is in the public interest, he said it would reveal personal information that could jeopardize the safety of the officers and others at the scene.
He granted the disclosure of the footage to Brown’s son, Khalil Ferebee, but ordered that any identifying information, including faces and badge numbers, be blurred or removed.
The judge ordered that the public disclosure be delayed by 30 to 45 days while the State Bureau of Investigation completes its investigation and any potential charging decision is made.
At that time, Foster said, he would reconsider petitions to release the video.
The ruling comes after mounting calls for the public release of the footage. Under North Carolina law, the release of body camera video must be ordered by a judge.
Earlier Wednesday, Pasquotank District Attorney Andrew Womble had requested a 30-day delay in releasing the footage, telling the judge that he needed time to complete an investigation into the shooting.
Releasing the video, Womble argued, would improperly influence potential witnesses or jurors.
“You cannot swing a skunk in front of a group of people and ask them not to smell it,” he said.
Multiple media outlets had petitioned the judge to demand that the video be released to the public.
Brown's family, which was allowed to view a portion of the footage earlier this week, says he had both hands on his steering wheel as police fired at him. An independent autopsy ordered by the family showed Brown was shot five times, including once to the back of the head.
The family's attorneys say the video they saw showed an "execution."
Brown, 42, died after deputies shot him as they were attempting to execute a drug-related search warrant.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II said that multiple deputies fired shots during the incident. Seven officers have since been placed on administrative leave.
According to the family’s attorneys, bodycam video showed that Brown was in his car in his driveway with his hands on the steering wheel as police fired at him. The footage also showed him backing out of the driveway amid the gunfire and driving away before hitting a tree, his family’s lawyers said.
Preliminary results of the family’s autopsy found Brown had five penetrating bullet wounds: four, which were to his right arm, were considered "glancing" and not fatal; the fifth, to the back of the head, was lethal.
Wayne Kendall, an attorney for the family, said the autopsy suggests that the fatal wound to Brown's head came as he was driving away.
In a statement, attorneys for the Brown family said they were "deeply disappointed" in the judge's decision.
"In this modern civil rights crisis where we see Black people killed by the police everywhere we look, video evidence is the key to discerning the truth and getting well-deserved justice for victims of senseless murders," their statement read. "Just look at the murder of George Floyd — if the world had not seen that clear and disturbing footage, there might not have even been an ounce of accountability for those officers.
"We refuse to be discouraged and vow to keep the pressure on these agencies until we get to the truth," they added. "We will not stop saying his name. Andrew Brown Jr.”
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