ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (NewsNation Now) — The family of Andrew Brown Jr., the Black man shot and killed by North Carolina deputies last week, viewed 20 seconds of body camera video of the fatal shooting Monday, according to the family’s attorney.
The account was the first description of the shooting of Brown. Authorities have released few details, and the video has not been made public.
Attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter watched the video with Brown’s family. Lassiter said Brown did not appear to be a threat to officers as he backed his vehicle out of his driveway and tried to drive away from deputies with guns drawn.
“There was no time in the 20 seconds that we saw where he was threatening the officers in any kind of way,” she told reporters at a news conference.
One attorney described the law enforcement officers shouting expletives at Brown as he attempted to exit the driveway and he then crashed into a tree while officers continued shooting at his car.
When asked whether Brown was shot in the back, attorney Harry Daniels said, “Yes, back of the head.”
An eyewitness account and emergency scanner traffic had previously indicated Brown was shot in the back as he tried to drive away.
Brown’s son described it as “an execution” and the result “of a broken system.”
“My dad got executed just by trying to save his own life,” said Brown’s adult son Khalil Ferebee.
Lassiter, who watched the video multiple times and took notes, said the shooting started as soon as the video began and that she lost count of the number of gunshots fired by law enforcement officers armed with rifles and handguns. She said she counted as many as eight deputies in the video, some wearing tactical uniforms and some in plainclothes.
“They’re shooting and saying ‘Let me see your hands at the same time,” she said. She added: “Let’s be clear. This was an execution.”
The family’s lawyers were also angry about what they described as rude treatment by Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox, to whom they attributed the decision to limit the amount of footage shown. They criticized authorities for sharing only 20 seconds of video from a single body camera.
“They’re trying to hide something,” attorney Benjamin Crump said.
The attorneys said they will go to court on Wednesday to get more body camera footage released.
One of the lawyers also argued that every single officer should be arrested based on the body camera footage the family viewed.
Viewing of the body camera footage was initially delayed after law enforcement announced redactions were being added to the video and more time was needed.
In a statement, Cox said the state law allows authorities to blur faces in the bodycam video “to protect an active internal investigation.”
“As soon as these redactions are complete, we will allow the family to view this footage,” Cox said Monday morning. “We hope this occurs today, but the actual time will be driven by the completion of the redactions. We are also continuing to seek transparency within the law and continue our efforts to get a court order that would allow the video to be released to the public.”
Brown, a 42-year-old Black man from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, was shot to death Wednesday by one or more deputy sheriffs trying to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants. An eyewitness said Brown tried to drive away but was shot dead in his car.
Mayor Bettie J. Parker announced Monday the city would be under a local state of emergency until further notice ahead of the release of the footage. Parker also said in the declaration that city officials will file a formal request Monday with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s office to make the release of the footage public.
Seven deputies have been placed on leave amid indications, including emergency scanner traffic and an eyewitness account, that Brown was shot in the back as he tried to drive away in an Elizabeth City neighborhood. Another three deputies resigned who were not directly involved in the shooting, Sheriff Tommy Wooten said. One was nearing retirement.
Wooten has said deputies from his department, including a tactical team, were attempting to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants when Brown was shot. He said multiple deputies fired shots but he disclosed few other details.
Nearby Dare County had issued two arrest warrants for Brown on drug-related charges including possession with intent to sell cocaine. According to court documents released Monday and seen by the Associated Press, the search warrant used said that investigators used information from an informant, including recordings of drug buys.
The shooting has prompted protests and demands for accountability in the eastern North Carolina city of about 18,000. Protestors urged the sheriff to release the bodycam following the shooting.
A judge in North Carolina allowed for the video to be released — it’s not something the sheriff’s office could do, Wooten said Saturday.
“Only a judge can release the video. That’s why I’ve asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to confirm for me that the releasing of the video will not undermine their investigation,” he said in prerecorded remarks. “Once I get that confirmation, our county will file a motion in court, hopefully, Monday, to have the footage released.”
Under North Carolina law, a judge must generally sign off on the release of law enforcement body camera footage. Leaders of the Elizabeth City government have demanded the release of the footage. The state’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement calling for the swift release of the footage.
Court records show Brown had a history of criminal charges stretching back into the 1990s, including a misdemeanor drug possession conviction and some pending felony drug charges.
Despite his hard life — Brown was partially paralyzed on his right side by accidental shooting, and he lost an eye when he was stabbed, according to aunt Glenda Brown Thomas — “Drew,” as he was called, looked for the humor in things.
“He had a good laugh, a nice smile. And he had good dimples,” Thomas said in an interview with the Associated Press Thursday, a day after her nephew was killed. “You know, when he’s talking and smiling, his dimples would always show. And he was kind of like a comedian. He always had a nice joke.”
Brown had seven children of his own and helped take care of others, Harry Daniels, an attorney representing the family, said Thursday.
Hampton said Brown was a proud father.
Another aunt who helped raise Brown in the absence of his parents, Martha McCullen, said it’s hard to find a job, especially with a criminal record, in Elizabeth City, where 1 in 5 live in poverty.
“Because they’re convicted … they can’t get no jobs,” she said. “It’s crazy.”
Despite Brown’s past trouble with the law, several relatives and friends said they never knew him to be a violent person.
“No matter what his past reflects, it still doesn’t give him (the deputy) the right to shoot him, period,” said Daniel Bowser, who said he had been friends with Brown for 30 years.
Family members said now it’s time for the North Carolina General Assembly to act by passing SB510, which would make body camera videos public record.
“There’s no reason that the general assembly in this state can’t pass that bill and open up these body cameras to public record,” said Rev. Dr. William Barber during Saturday’s press conference.
NewsNation affiliate WAVY and the Associated Press contributed to this report.