Bodycam Video Of Andrew Brown Jr.'s Killing Won't Released — The Unjust Reason Why

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Andrew Brown Jr.

A North Carolina judge has rejected a petition from approximately 20 media outlets asking that bodycam footage showing the events leading up to and during Andrew Brown Jr.’s death be released.

The police officers are reported to have opened fire on Brown while serving him a warrant on April 21.

In an independent autopsy, it was revealed that Brown was shot five times, including one shot to the back of his head.

Why won't the bodycam video of events surrounding Andrew Brown Jr.'s death be released to the public?

Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster said releasing the video footage from the four bodycams of the police officers involved in the shooting could impact a potential trial.

"Confidentiality is necessary at this point to protect an active internal and criminal investigation or potential internal criminal investigation," Foster said. "The court therefore finds that good cause does not exist for granting the petition of the media petitioners and therefore that petition is respectfully denied by the court."

Foster also said he'd based his decision in part on his belief that releasing the bodycam videos could threaten the safety of those in the footage, appearing to forget that those in the footage already threatened the safety of Brown beyond repair.

Perhaps the officers involved in the killing wouldn’t need a fair trial if a fair trial had been given to Brown.

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The decision has drawn condemnation from attorneys representing Brown’s family.

And although Sheriff Tommy Wooten said he was "disappointed by the judge’s ruling" because he wanted the video released to the public, the decision has also raised questions about what exactly authorities may be trying to hide.

Brown’s family will be allowed to view more of the bodycam footage within 30-45 days, after any Information that could potentially identify the officers involved is redacted or blurred. They had previously only been shown a 20-second clip from one of the four bodycams that were filming at the time.

Attorney H.P. Williams, who said he was at the hearing representing "attorneys and clients who did not want to be identified due to a fear for their own safety," said he and the anonymous parties he was there to speak for “believe the shooting was justified.”

Sadly, the public will not be given access to footage that might help us make that judgment for ourselves for at least the next 30 days, at which time he says would consider releasing it if the investigation is complete.

Andrew Brown Jr.’s death has been labeled an “execution.”

Brown’s family and their representatives were allowed to view a 20-second snippet of bodycam footage early this week, shortly after officials declared a state of emergency in Elizabeth City in preparation for outrage and protests.

Officials appear to have a clear awareness of what the response to the footage would be, which only further consolidates the public’s opinion that the shooting must not have been justified.

After viewing the clip, family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said, “Let’s be clear; this was an execution." She then criticized the lack of transparency shown by North Carolina law enforcement.

The Brown family’s representatives have said there were at least eight different cameras at the scene including other body cam footage, dashcam footage, and CCTV in the area, yet the clip was only from one camera.

By restricting access to the footage, North Carolina officials have been able to offer their own narrative about the events that directly contradict accounts from witnesses and those who viewed the 20-second clip.

Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble said officers fired when the car Brown was driving moved towards them.

Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee, who was at the scene, and attorneys who viewed the footage said Brown only began to drive away to save his life after officers had opened fire.

One of the family’s representatives said Brown was cooperating before the officers began shooting but was forced to try to move his car in order to avoid getting shot.

“Andrew Brown was in his driveway. The sheriff’s truck blocked him in his driveway so he couldn’t exit the driveway. Andrew had his hands on his steering wheel. He was not reaching for anything; he was not touching anything; he was not throwing anything around. He had his hands firmly on the steering wheel.”

The conflicting accounts of the incident only further support the need for bodycam footage to be made public. It has already been ruled that the sheriff’s faces and badges will be redacted from the footage to protect their identities meaning there is no threat to their safety.

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North Carolina altered laws to protect body cam footage.

In many states, footage taken on the bodycams worn by police is considered public property. However, North Carolina law requires a judge’s approval to release tapes.

This requirement was signed into law in 2016 during the early years of the Black Lives Matter movement and increasing protests against police brutality.

However, the current North Carolina governor, Gov. Roy Cooper, has expressed his desires to reverse this law.

“I have continued to support a change in the law that would presume that this kind of videos are public record and a court would have to come in and find a reason not to have them released to the public,” he said.

The law went into effect just one week after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, under intense pressure from the public, released footage of the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Scott’s death had ignited widespread protests in Charlotte with many demanding the arrest of the police officer involved in the shooting. His death is also the last high-profile police shooting that didn’t require a court order for the video to be released.

The law has served its purpose in protecting law enforcement and preventing protests against police killings, but at what cost?

If law enforcement knows their identities and misconduct will be protected, what is to stop them from shooting men like Brown in the back of the head and then hiding behind unreleased footage?

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.