Family members of Andrew Brown Jr., the Black man who was shot and killed by North Carolina law enforcement officers last month, on Tuesday viewed roughly 20 minutes of police camera footage depicting Brown’s final moments after a judge two weeks ago ruled that the family had a right to the recordings.
“What we saw on that video was an unjustified killing, what we saw on that video is something that we believe also denotes further investigation and does have some criminal liability,” family attorney Bakari Sellers said outside the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office in Elizabeth City, N.C., early Tuesday evening.
Six different videos — five from body cameras and one from a dash camera — were shown to Brown’s immediate family along with Sellers and other family attorneys sometime after 3 p.m..
Before now, only family members had seen a short, redacted clip of the fatal incident. After viewing the snippet, Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee labeled his father’s death as an “execution.”
Under North Carolina law, police body camera footage cannot be publicly released without approval by a judge.
Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster on April 28 made such a ruling, saying that Ferebee and other immediate family members of Brown should have access to the footage within 10 days.
While longer than the initial 20-second clip, the new footage is only a portion of the full length of the body cam recordings, which totals around two hours.
Foster denied media outlets access to the footage, arguing that public release “would create a serious threat to the fair impartial and orderly administration of justice.”
All seven deputies on the scene initially were put on administrative leave, though only the three that discharged their firearms remained sidelined.
”What I need explaining today is why you have killers in Pasquotank County that is not in the jail today,” attorney Harry Daniels said. “I am mad as hell.”
Deputies from the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office shot and killed Brown, 42, on April 21, just a day after a Minneapolis jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
The officers reportedly approached Brown with a search warrant and a pair of arrest warrants on felony drug charges. Attorneys for Brown’s family have said that his hands were on the steering wheel of his car when police began shooting. They’ve also said Brown was trying to escape police after the shooting began. An independent autopsy report found he had been shot five times and that he had died from a gunshot to the back of the head.
District Attorney Andrew Womble has refuted this, claiming that the deputies only began shooting as Brown tried to back up and then drive forward, bumping the deputies in the process.
However, the Brown family attorneys said Tuesday that Womble’s account of what happened was wrong.
“We have a saying where I'm from; that saying is, ‘I was born at night but not last night,’” family lawyer Chance Lynch told the crowd gathered outside the sheriff’s office.
“At all times his hands were visible … you can see that he was not a threat,” Lynch explained. “At no point did we ever see [Brown’s car] make contact with law enforcement.”
Late last week, the legal team asked Womble to recuse himself from the case given the nature of his work as a prosecutor.
"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 to Womble. "The conflict is well-defined."
The new footage viewed by Brown’s family blurred the faces of the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office deputies involved, a discretion that was granted by the Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster when he made his April 28 decision on the recordings.
Both the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation as well as the FBI’s field office in Charlotte have opened probes into Brown’s killing.