Bodycam video showed Andrew Brown Jr. with hands on car wheel before N.C. deputies shot him, family says
The family of a North Carolina man shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies said Monday that they were shown just 20 seconds of body-camera video that appeared to show the man with his hands on the steering wheel of his car before he was killed.
Loved ones of Andrew Brown Jr., 42, expected to be shown the bodycam video just before noon Monday, but the viewing was pushed back several hours because of redactions sought by the county attorney, family attorneys said.
But even in 20 seconds of video, Brown’s loved ones said, it was clear that he wasn’t a threat to law enforcement and shouldn’t have been gunned down.
“My dad got executed just trying to save his own life,” son Khalil Ferebee told reporters outside the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office. “It ain’t right. It ain’t right at all.”
Family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said the video showed Brown in his vehicle as it was blocked in the driveway in Elizabeth City by law enforcement, making an escape impossible. NBC News hasn’t seen the video.
“Andrew had his hands on his steering wheel. He was not reaching for anything. He wasn’t touching anything,” she said.
“He had his hands firmly on the steering wheel. They run up to his vehicle shooting. He still stood there, sat there in his vehicle, with his hands on the steering wheel while being shot at.”
When asked whether Brown was shot in the back, attorney Harry Daniels told The Associated Press, “Yes, back of the head.”
The family conceded that Brown did try to drive away — but said he was fired upon before he tried to escape. Shell casings were flying in the video before his vehicle moved, Cherry-Lassiter said.
“His car was riddled with bullets, shooting him when he was not threatening them in any form or fashion,” she said. “There were shell casing before he even backed out. So they were shooting at him when he was sitting there with his hands on the steering wheel in the driveway.”
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy S. Wooten in a video statement later Monday characterized the incident as quick and said that outside investigators are interviewing witnesses and gathering more information.
“This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds, and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher,” Wooten said. “They only tell part of the story.”
The redactions and the delay angered Brown’s family, especially in light of a search warrant affidavit detailing allegations against him and justifying why deputies sought to arrest him.
“They released a warrant saying all kinds of things about Andrew Brown, but they want to redact the face of police officers that killed Andrew Brown?” said Benjamin Crump, another attorney representing the family.
“Now, Andrew Brown didn’t kill nobody. The police killed Andrew Brown. But we’re going to protect them and not show their face and not say their names so we can see what their rap sheet is,” he said.
Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said in a statement earlier in the day that state law “allows us to blur some faces on the video and that process takes time.”
The family complained that they were shown 20 seconds of bodycam video from just one of at least eight responding deputies. No dash-cam video was shown, they said.
Cox couldn’t be immediately reached for comment late Monday afternoon.
Brown was killed Wednesday as deputies sought to serve a warrant for his arrest on felony drug charges, authorities said. A search warrant affidavit made public Monday accused Brown of selling cocaine, crack, meth and heroin.
The circumstances of his death remain unclear. Seven deputies have been put on administrative leave. Three have resigned; a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said their resignations were unrelated to the shooting.
The shooting occurred in a residential neighborhood in Elizabeth City, which is about 35 miles south of Norfolk, Virginia.
Earlier Monday, Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker declared a state of emergency ahead of the release of the video and a potential “period of civil unrest.” The video can be publicly released only by a judge.
The declaration clears a way for the city to receive state and federal assistance “to protect our citizens,” Parker said.
Monday protesters took to the streets in Elizabeth City, a community of around 17,600, with some saying the redacted video showed a cover-up, NBC affiliate WAVY reported.
Brown was shot when a SWAT-style team tried to serve the warrants last week, sheriff’s officials have said. Brown was a convicted felon with a history of resisting arrest, which meant the procedure was considered to have a higher risk than others, authorities said.
Gov. Roy Cooper has said Brown’s death was “tragic and extremely concerning,” and he has called for a state investigation “to ensure accountability.”
Phil Helsel contributed.