The Elizabeth City Mayor declared a state of emergency Monday as North Carolina authorities worked to edit bodycam footage of the deadly shooting at Andrew Brown Jr. before allowing the black’s family and lawyers to view them.
The family and their representatives are planning a visit the video in the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s officelawyers said at a press conference calling for the video to be released immediately.
“City officials recognize that after this footage is released, there may be a period of civil unrest in the city,” Mayor Bettie Parker said in the emergency statement.
Attorney Harry Daniels said the family were told they could see the video at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, only to learn about an hour before that time that the video was being edited and would not be available until later that day. District Attorney R. Michael Cox said in a law that allows face blurring to protect an active internal investigation, “this process takes time”.
The lawyers said they wanted the raw video, not the edited version.
“What’s so damn on the video?” Attorney Ben Crump asked.
Brown, a father of seven, was fatally shot by MPs on Wednesday Arrest warrants in Elizabeth City. Few details of the shooting have been released, although the shipping audio features a first responder saying, “Be warned, EMS has a man aged 42 who has a shot in the back.”
Sheriff Tommy Wooten has said MPs shot and killed Brown while serving drug-related search and arrest warrants. The warrants say investigators used information from an informant, including records of drug purchases, according to court documents released Monday.
Public release of the video, as requested by stakeholders, requires the approval of the court. Wooten has said he will seek approval, but not until he is assured by the State Bureau of Investigation that the release would not jeopardize his investigation.
Wooten, who heard a chorus of calls for resignation, won support Sunday by the chairman of the district commission. Chairman Lloyd Griffin asked the community for patience as the gun investigation continues.
“The rush to gather evidence and interview witnesses would violate any future legal case that might arise after this tragedy,” Griffin said. “Justice takes time when done right.”
Griffin said a two year gunfight in Charlotte took three weeks before the body camera footage was legally released. Griffin said he hoped it didn’t take that long this time, but state law had to be obeyed.
“The commissioners support Sheriff Wooten, who is trying to maintain public safety in our county while responding to the needs of the Brown family and those concerned about the shooting,” Griffin said. “It is easy to criticize and difficult to lead.”
Seven MPs have been given paid administrative leave since the shooting. Daniels said Brown was shot in the back by MPs when he tried to escape. His death on Wednesday came the day after former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd, whose death was also videotaped and sparked a wave of national protests that sparked outrage over the police treatment of people of color.
“The family is ready to see this bodycam footage,” said Daniels NBC News. “Nothing is guaranteed.”
Governor Roy Cooper called the filming “worrying” and called for the video to be released “as soon as possible”.
Elizabeth City, 60 miles south of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the county seat and home to fewer than 18,000 residents, approximately half of whom are black.