After viewing body and dash camera footage of Andrew Brown Jr.‘s death, attorneys and family members of Brown said Tuesday that it proves police were unjustified in shooting him.
Brown was fatally shot April 21 when Pasquotank County deputies in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, were trying to execute a warrant.
Chance Lynch, one of the Brown family attorneys, said he and the family were able to watch six videos. The first video was a dash camera video with no sound, and the last five were all body camera footage.
“We were able to see some critical footage that yields some truth and transparency to what we thought we would see from the beginning,” Lynch said during a news conference Tuesday.
Pasquotank County Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said Tuesday the video showed the attempt to serve an arrest warrant against Brown, as well as officers attempts to provide Brown medical care after the shooting.
“It was my hope that we will be able to release the video publicly so everyone could see for themselves what happened,” Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten added. “We respect the court’s decision and took an oath to abide by north Carolina law and we’ve done just that.”
The family and attorney’s viewing of the video comes after petitions from the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and a media coalition, Judge Jeff Foster issued a written order allowing for Brown’s family and one of their legal representatives to view the videos — but they will not be allowed to receive copies or make recordings.
The judge filed his order Thursday night, according to a copy posted by the county. The order says the videos consist of almost two hours of footage.
Brown posed no threat to officers, attorney says
Lynch said he saw Brown sitting in his vehicle when officers arrived and started yelling different things at Brown like “show your hands” or “get out.”
“At all times his hands were visible, you could see he was not a threat,” Lynch said. “It was so much yelling, we could barely understand what was happening.”
A shot was fired, Lynch said, and Brown put his car in reverse several feet from where the officers were standing.
“At no point did we see any police officers behind his vehicle,” Lynch said. “At no point did we see Mr. Brown make contact with law enforcement.”
District Attorney Andrew Womble, who is responsible for the district that includes Pasquotank County, said officers fired when the car Brown was driving moved toward them and the car made contact with officers at least two times before shots were fired.
Lynch said he did see officers firing their weapons at Brown’s car. He found it difficult to count how many shots were fired.
“When they approached the vehicle, we counted approximately six if not more bullet holes in the passenger side of his car,” Lynch said. “Windows were shattered. We were able to see one shot in the front windshield and approximately six (bullet holes) in the back windshield.”
Lynch said at some point there was a “final shot” at which point Brown lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a tree across the street. Officers pulled Brown’s body out of the car and laid him face first on the ground. No weapons were found in Brown’s car after police searched it.
“It was absolutely, unequivocally unjustified,” Lynch said. “Our legal team is more committed now to pursue justice … because what we saw today was unconstitutional and it was unjustifiable.”
The judge ordered the sheriff’s office to blur the deputies’ facial features “to prevent identification pending the completion of any internal or criminal investigation into the actions of the deputies.”
Two members of Brown’s family and his family’s attorneys were initially shown a 20-second clip from a deputy’s body camera on April 26, according to Daniels. Another of the Brown family attorneys, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, said the 20-second clip showed an “execution.”
“The video I seen last week is pretty much the same as what I seen today just a few more details,” Khalil Ferebee, one of Brown’s sons who was one of two family members able to see the first video, said Tuesday. “He wasn’t in the wrong at all, what’s in the dark will come to the light.”
Brown’s attorneys ask for DA to recuse himself
In dispatch audio from April 21, when Brown was fatally shot, first responders can be heard saying a man had gunshot wounds to the back. A copy of Brown’s death certificate says he died as a result of a gunshot wound of the head.
According to the arrest warrant, issued on April 20 and obtained by CNN on Thursday, Brown “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously did possess with the intent to sell and deliver a controlled substance, namely approximately three grams of cocaine.”
Ferebee said after viewing the 20-second clip that he saw his father driving away from the deputies, not toward them.
Womble said April 28 that Brown’s car in the video was stationary when officers approached shouting commands. As officers attempted to open a door on the car, the vehicle backed up and made contact with an officer.
Womble said the car then stopped before moving forward and again made contact with law enforcement. After the car moved forward, shots are heard, Womble said.
Attorneys for Brown’s family called for Womble to recuse himself from the case, citing “well-defined” conflicts between the prosecutor and the sheriff’s office.
“There is no doubt all seven officers involved, including the three shooters, have worked directly with you and your office for years in prosecuting various cases,” the family attorneys wrote in a letter to Womble last week.
The letter, signed by family attorney Bakari Sellers, asked that “in the interest of fairness, transparency and pursuit of the ends of justice” Womble move the case to another jurisdiction and “immediately recuse yourself.”
“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. “The conflict is well-defined.”
A state investigation into Brown’s death “remains ongoing,” a spokesperson for North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation told CNN on Tuesday.
Public information officer Anjanette Grube said that, due to the many variables in the investigation, the agency was unable to provide a timeline of when it might conclude.