US judge: no immediate release of video of Andrew Brown shooting

North Carolina judge rules against media and sheriff requests to make body camera video public.

A protester carries a Black Lives Matter flag shortly before the start of a dawn to dusk curfew following the killing of Andrew Brown Jr in Elizabeth City, North Carolina [Jonathan Drake/Reuters]

The body camera video that shows the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr by police will not immediately be made public, a judge in the US state of North Carolina has ruled, but said Brown’s son could view it.

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten and roughly 20 media organisations had filed petitions to release the video of the attempted arrest and fatal shooting by sheriff’s deputies on April 21, arguing disclosure was in the public interest.

At Wednesday’s court hearing, District Attorney Andrew Womble argued against immediate release, saying it could jeopardise an ongoing State Bureau of Investigation probe. He said there were four body camera videos of the shooting.

Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster ruled against the immediate release of four body camera videos but said he would allow disclosure to Brown’s son.

Brown’s family members have so far viewed only a short clip of one camera involved. Their lawyers, describing the incident, said Brown had his hands on the steering wheel, and one shot was to the back of the head.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Brown family, claimed Brown was “executed” by a “kill shot to the back of the head” as he unveiled results of an independent autopsy during a Tuesday press conference.

Crump and other lawyers representing the Brown family said they were “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.

“In this modern civil rights crisis where we see Black people killed by the police everywhere we look, video evidence is the key to discerning the truth and getting well-deserved justice for victims of senseless murders,” the lawyers said in a statement emailed to the Reuters news agency.

Videos of police arrests and killings have become a hotly contested issue in the United States, especially following the death of George Floyd after being pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin and three other Minneapolis, Minnesota police officers for more than nine minutes last May.

A jury found Chauvin guilty on three counts of unintentional murder and manslaughter on April 20. The three other officers involved are scheduled to go to trial in August.

The prosecution of Chauvin might never have happened if bystander video of the killing was not made public, sparking protests, some violent, around the US and the world demanding justice. The Minneapolis police had originally said that Floyd had died after a “medical incident”.

Delaware police also face scrutiny over the killing of Lymond Moses, a Black man shot during a January interaction with officers in Wilmington.

An initial press release stated Moses fled the officers in his car, hit a dead end, made a U-turn “and drove at a high rate of speed directly at the officers. The officers subsequently discharged their firearms and struck the driver”.

Police released bodycam footage of Moses’s death that appears to contradict the press release. It shows officers telling Moses, who was asleep in his car, that they were looking for stolen cars.

Lymond Moses speaks with New Castle County Police Department officers before he was shot dead during the encounter in Wilmington, Delaware in this still image from body camera video [New Castle Police Department/Handout via Reuters]

Moses replied that his car was not stolen, the video showed. Police found cannabis in Moses’s car and asked him several times to “hop out”. Moses drove off as an officer shouted “motherf****r”.

Moses’s family announced a lawsuit against police on Monday.

The family of Mario Gonzalez, 26, have said the Latino man stopped breathing after police pinned him on the ground during an arrest on April 19 at a park in Alameda, California.

A police statement said Gonzalez had a medical emergency after officers tried to handcuff him.

Gonzalez’s family says his death is similar to Floyd’s and are calling for accountability and answers.

Two officers have been placed on leave after Moses’s death. Three officers are on leave following the death of Gonzalez.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies