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Two days after Andrew Brown Jr. was fatally shot by deputies in North Carolina, local law enforcement officials continue to promise transparency in their investigation.
But the process to make public the most critical piece of evidence — body camera footage of the encounter in which deputies shot the Black man while serving an arrest warrant — has become a source of contention and confusion.
Protesters and politicians have pressured the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office to release footage from its deputies' bodycams. Sheriff Tommy Wooten has said only a judge can release the footage.
Wooten, surrounded by community leaders on Friday, repeatedly promised transparency and accountability.
In North Carolina, a judge must generally sign off on release of bodycam footage. Judges "have issued such orders relatively freely," according to University of North Carolina law professor Jeffrey B. Welty.
Media organizations, as well as Brown's family, have announced their intentions to petition a judge to release the footage.
"It's very cumbersome," William H. Morgan, Elizabeth City's attorney, said of the state's statutes on the situation. Morgan addressed city council Friday as they approved a petition asking three local law enforcement offices directly to release the footage.
"From a purely legal point of view, I don't feel good about our prospects," Morgan said.
Brown was fatally shot in Elizabeth City on Wednesday morning. Witness accounts and scanner traffic recordings indicate he was shot in the back while fleeing in his a vehicle.
Seven North Carolina deputies have been placed on leave, Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office Maj. Aaron Wallio confirmed to the Associated Press in an email Friday.
Wallio's email also said that another three deputies have recently resigned, but he later clarified that the resignations were unrelated to the shooting. He said the department has about 55 total sworn deputies.
The state's governor on Friday expressed concerns about the shooting.
"Initial reports of the shooting in Elizabeth City and death of Andrew Brown, Jr. this week are tragic and extremely concerning. The body camera footage should be made public as quickly as possible," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted.
For days, protesters have also demanded footage of the shooting be made public as eyewitness accounts of the events circulated.
Brown was unarmed, an attorney representing five of Brown's children said Thursday, adding that witness accounts paint a picture of an "unlawful, unjustified killing."
The deputies, who have not been identified, were serving an arrest warrant surrounding felony drug charges at Brown's rental home, according to the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office.
Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said officers from another agency and the local version of a SWAT team were involved because "Mr. Brown was a convicted felon with a history of resisting arrest." The circumstances led police to believe there was a "high risk of danger" according to their training, Fogg said.
In a statement, District Attorney Andrew Womble and Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said "the law prohibits us from publicly releasing the body worn camera footage."
"The law does allow a private viewing by the family of Mr. Brown. We are working with their attorney to arrange that," the attorneys said.
Relatives say Brown, 42, was quick to crack a joke and had an easy smile, despite hardship, loss and troubles with the law.
Brown was partially paralyzed on his right side by an accidental shooting, and he lost an eye when he was stabbed, according to aunt Glenda Brown Thomas.
“He had a good laugh, a nice smile. And he had good dimples," Thomas told the Associated Press a day after her nephew was killed. “You know, when he’s talking and smiling, his dimples would always show. And he was kind of like a comedian. He always had a nice joke.”
Contributing: F.T. Norton, The Fayetteville Observer; Kaanita Iyer, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Andrew Brown Jr. shooting: Body camera video yet to be released