Body camera footage of police killing Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man fatally shot last week in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, will not be released to the public for at least 30 days, a judge ruled on Wednesday.
Superior Court judge Jeff Foster ruled on Wednesday that fully releasing the footage before state police, the FBI, and other bodies had investigated the shooting could “create a serious threat” to the justice process. The pause in releasing the footage will last not longer than 45 days.
“The court in its discretion at that time will consider further release of the video,” he said.
Mr Brown’s family, who has only seen 20 seconds of the police body camera footage so far, will be able to watch footage within 10 days, once police have time to blur out various confidential details.
A group of Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Mr Brown outside his house last Wednesday, 21 April, in Elizabeth City as they attempted to serve him with an arrest and search warrant, according to the sheriff’s office. Witnesses say police shot Mr Brown as he was driving away from officers.
After a private viewing on Monday morning, Mr Brown’s family told reporters that a limited section of police body camera video shows seven or eight officers, including some armed with assault rifles, firing a hail of bullets at Mr Brown, who keeps his hands on the wheel of his car and complies with officers’ commands. The family’s attorneys have argued there’s more to they incident they don’t yet know.
“As my eight-year-old daughter would understand, they are trying to hide something,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Brown family, said on Monday. “They don’t want us to see everything.”
In court on Wednesday, media organisations and the county sheriff’s office petitioned to release the video, after a week straight of community protests calling for accountability.
But Pasquotank District Attorney Andrew Womble argued that footage, which he says shows Mr Brown hitting officers with his car, would spoil a fair trial.
“You can’t swing a skunk in front of a group of people and tell them not to smell it,” Mr Womble said, WAVY reported.
The court hearing also confirmed suspicions from Mr Brown’s family that there are a number of different body camera videos capturing what happened. Various law enforcement officers referenced the existence of at least 5 separate body camera videos as well as one from a dashboard-mounted recorder during Wednesday’s arguments.
Otherwise, the public has only seen short clips of what happened.
On Tuesday, newly obtained video showed the moment last week when sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene and proceeded to shoot Mr Brown.
In the footage, obtained by Virginia-based TV station WAVY via a Freedom of Information Act Request, a truck full of deputies in body armor drive past a city security camera on their way to serve Mr Brown with an arrest and search warrant as part of a drug investigation.
They pull up to a stop at the outer edge of the video frame, and can be heard yelling, likely at Mr Brown, before the audio cuts out during the moments where he was believed to be shot just offscreen.
“The video leaked earlier today shows what we already suspected: Andrew Brown Jr. was brought down by an inflamed modern-day lynch mob,” Mr Brown’s attorneys said in a statement.
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