A state of emergency is now in effect in Elizabeth City, N.C., where the local sheriff’s office is expected to publicly release a deputy’s body camera footage from the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. last Wednesday. The city has also closed all of its government offices for the day.
Pasquotank County, N.C., Sheriff Tommy Wooten II said over the weekend that his office will ask a court to approve the video’s release on Monday. That step is required by North Carolina law, as agencies generally do not have the authority to make such recordings public.
The video and audio recordings will likely be released “in the very near future,” Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker said in an emergency declaration that was issued Monday morning.
“City officials realize there may potentially be a period of civil unrest within the City following the public release of that footage,” she stated.
City police also announced downtown road closures around the county courthouse and sheriff’s office on Monday, saying the streets “are closed for citizens exercising their constitutional right to a peaceful protest.”
Brown’s death immediately resulted in protests in Elizabeth City; police said over the weekend that the demonstrations had not resulted in property damage or arrests.
In addition to seeking court approval to release video footage from that incident, Wooten also said he asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to confirm that doing so would not undermine its investigation into Brown’s death.
Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by deputies who had approached him to serve search and arrest warrants.
As The Associated Press reports:
“Recordings of scanner traffic compiled by broadcastify.com from the morning of the shooting include emergency personnel indicating that Brown was shot in the back. An eyewitness has said that deputies fired shots at Brown as he tried to drive away, and a car authorities removed from the scene appeared to have multiple bullet holes and its back windshield shattered.”
Brown died one day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd — a case that inflamed nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Mayor Parker is calling for North Carolina to change its laws to streamline the release of footage from officer-worn cameras, saying a delay of up to 48 hours should be sufficient.
Initial details about Brown’s death “are tragic and extremely concerning,” Gov. Roy Cooper said on Friday. He added, “The body camera footage should be made public as quickly as possible and the SBI should investigate thoroughly to ensure accountability.”
Seven sheriff’s deputies have since been placed on administrative leave.