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State of emergency declared in North Carolina city ahead of Andrew Brown footage release

A state of emergency has been declared in Elizabeth City, N.C., as the city awaits the release of body camera footage of the police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. 

Mayor Bettie Parker issued the declaration on Monday in anticipation of the footage’s release, after Pasquotank County Sheriff Thomas S. Wooten said last week that county officials sought to ask a court to release the footage this week.

Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by police in the city last week. At the time, deputies were said to be attempting to serve an arrest warrant for felony drug charges. But when a car began to leave the scene, deputies fired at the vehicle. 

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In the past week, a number of activists and politicians have called on local officials to release the body camera footage from the shooting.

Wooten said over the weekend that he wanted to make sure the footage’s release did not compromise the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s current probe into the shooting.

“People have falsely claimed that my office has the power to do so, that is not true, only a judge can release the video,” he said in a statement on Saturday. 

During a press conference calling for the footage’s release on Monday morning, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump accused authorities of wanting to sweep the shooting “under the rug.”

“Before you all showed up, they just wanted to sweep it under the rug, as they have done other brothers and sisters who have been unjustifiably killed by the people that’s supposed to protect and serve us,” Crump said. 

“It’s so very important that we have transparency, because if we don’t have transparency, we can never get to accountability, and if we never get to accountability, we can get to healing and trust," he continued. “So, if we want to heal this community, if we want to heal this family, then Sheriff Wooten, then you need to be transparent.”

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“What is it on this video that is so damning that you would risk your career and risk losing your job so the people can't see the video? What is it?” he added.

In her declaration on Monday, Parker said she decided to issue the alert in order to ensure the safety of the city’s citizens and their property as “city officials realize there may potentially be a period of civil unrest within the city following the public release of that footage.”

“In order to absolutely ensure that the city has all state and/or federal resources necessary to protect our citizens during such period of civil unrest, we deem it necessary to declare a state of emergency,” she wrote. 

The mayor said she directs “all departments and agencies of Elizabeth city to take whatever steps necessary to protect life and property, public infrastructure and provide such emergency assistance deemed necessary to preserve public safety.”

The alert was scheduled to begin on Monday at 8 a.m. and will continue “until deemed no longer necessary to protect our citizens from and such threat to their safety,” the order stated.

Parker also said that city officials will be filing a formal request with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s office to seek the public release of the footage on Monday.