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Judge rules against immediate release of body cam footage in Andrew Brown Jr.'s case

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Posted at 12:03 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 14:06:17-04

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - During a court hearing Wednesday, a judge ruled against the immediate release of body camera footage of Pasquotank sheriff's deputies shooting and killing of Andrew Brown Jr.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Foster said he would revisit the case in 30 to 45 days to give the State Bureau of Investigations more time to complete their work.

"The release at this time would cause a serious threat to the fair and impartial orderly administration of justice," Foster said.

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten petitioned the court to release the video to Brown's son, who could then make it public.

The judge approved further disclosure of the videos, meaning Brown's family will be able to privately view more of the body camera footage of the incident.

Some of the footage shown to Brown's family will be redacted to protect the deputies' identities. Additionally, the judge denied the release of body cam footage to the public at the media's request.

District Attorney Andrew Womble called for the video to not be released for at least 30 days so as not to impact a potential criminal trial.

Womble said he only wants the video to be released in a trial if there are criminal charges. If there are not, Womble said he would hold a press conference and release the video.

County Attorney Cox stated during his argument for the release of the footage that if the family has seen it, then it should also be released to the media.

Womble also spoke publicly for the first time about what he says is on the video. He says Brown drove towards deputies and made contact with them.

"It is then and only then that you hear shots," he said.

Womble also asked the judge to admonish all attorneys in the case after he argued that statements made by Chantel Cherrie-Lassiter were false when she retold what she saw on the body cam footage.

Lassiter said she saw deputies run up and shoot Brown while his hands were on his steering wheel.

Outside of court, Lassiter stood by her account.

HP Williams spoke in court on Wednesday on the behalf of the sheriff deputies and their attorneys who he says wish to remain anonymous for fear of their personal safety

HP Williams stated the release of the footage should be denied and he would not oppose disclosure of it if faces are redacted, due to attempts to already identify officers and the threats that have been made. He said that he fears the release could cause a possible influence on jurors.

He asked that if the court does release the footage, that the investigation is completed and the release is delayed 30 days.

HP Williams said officers are very distraught at what happened and feel for the family of Andrew brown, but they believe the shooting is justified.

Attorneys on behalf of the Brown family argued that the District Attorney wanting to remove comments made by Lassiter is even more reason to release the footage to allow the public to form their own opinion. The attorney argued how the footage was just recently used in the Derek Chauvin trial regarding George Floyd's death.

The attorneys argued that the release of the footage will not jeopardize the investigation and stated that the SBI did not objectify to its release. The attorney said the release of the officer's names has to come out but agrees with the minimal blurring of faces.

On Tuesday, the FBI Charlotte Field Office announced that it opened a federal civil rights investigation into the fatal incident.

There have been seven days of peaceful protests in Elizabeth City following Brown's death. Protesters are calling for transparency and release of the body cam footage.

Sheriff Wooten released the following statement after Wednesday's ruling:

“I wanted the body camera footage to be released to the public as soon as possible, and I’m disappointed it won’t happen immediately. Obviously, I’ll respect the judge’s ruling. Although we’re unable to show the public what happened right now, the independent investigators are working to complete their investigation. As soon as all of the important facts are given to me, I will act quickly to ensure accountability and I’ll be as transparent as I possibly can with the public.”

Related: N.C. SBI releases statement ahead of court hearing for the release of body cam footage in Andrew Brown Jr. case