North Carolina Judge Jeffrey Foster ordered on Wednesday that body camera footage of Andrew Brown Jr.’s recent death involving law enforcement not be released until the state investigation is complete.
A coalition of media groups was calling for the footage to be released. Foster denied standing — the legal ability to appear on a matter — to the group. Media attorneys for the coalition, Mike Tadych and Amanda Martin, “said the ruling is the first denial of standing in the more than 30 body camera cases they have handled. When the ruling is final, they will likely appeal, they said, pending client approval,” according to Carolina Public Press, one of the media groups requesting the release.
According to NPR, Foster said that giving the footage to the public could damage the reputation or safety of the deputies involved and impact the state’s investigation.
The outlet reported, “The judge said five body camera videos and one car camera video will be disclosed to Brown’s family and to their attorney. He ordered all faces and nametags of deputies blurred. Foster ordered the videos released to the public in no less than 30 and no more than 45 days. The state must notify the court when its investigation is complete.”
Brown’s family’s attorneys reportedly said they were “deeply disappointed” by 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,” they said in a statement. “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.”
On Wednesday, Andrew Brown, Jr., a 42-year-old black man, was reportedly killed following an encounter with law enforcement authorities. As reported by The Associated Press, “Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II has said that deputies shot and killed Brown while serving drug-related search and arrest warrants but released few other details.”
WUNC North Carolina Public Radio reported:
Recordings of scanner traffic compiled by broadcastify.com from the morning of the shooting include emergency personnel indicating that Brown was shot in the back. An eyewitness has said that deputies fired shots at Brown as he tried to drive away, and a car authorities removed from the scene appeared to have multiple bullet holes and its back windshield shattered.
Amid growing calls for the body camera footage to be released, Wooten said over the weekend that he would ask a judge to release the footage on Monday. He said that he would make sure that the release of the footage would not compromise any investigation efforts by the State Bureau of Investigation.
“Only a judge can release the video. That’s why I’ve asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to confirm for me that the releasing of the video will not undermine their investigation. Once I get that confirmation, our county will file a motion in court, hopefully Monday, to have the footage released,” he said.
Andrew Womble, district attorney for the First Prosecutorial District, appeared at a hearing Wednesday morning before Foster. Womble argued that the videos should not be released to the public because it could impede the investigation. Instead, he requested that the judge immediately “disclose” any footage he decides is “appropriate” to the family of Andrew Brown Jr.
Attorneys for Brown’s family have said that the shooting was an “execution,” but Womble has pushed back against those claims. He said that Brown’s car moved and “made contact with law enforcement” before deputies began to shoot.
“The next movement of the car is forward, it is in the direction of law enforcement, and makes contact with law enforcement. It is then and only then that you hear shots,” the district attorney said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced Tuesday that it will be investigating Brown’s death. The investigation was announced a day after Brown’s family and their attorneys were able to view body camera footage of the incident. An autopsy was also conducted that the family commissioned. The forensic pathologist, Dr. Brent Hall, reportedly found that Brown was shot four times in the right arm and one time in the back of the head.
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