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N. Carolina city declares state of emergency due to ‘civil unrest’; waiting for dashcam release, 7 deputies on leave

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Officials in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Monday declared a state of emergency as local police sought permission from a court to release bodycam footage involving the fatal shooting of a black man last week.

Andrew Brown was shot and killed in his car Wednesday morning as officers served a search warrant related to drug allegations.

Seven deputies with the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Department have been placed on leave following witness claims and emergency scanner traffic suggesting that Brown was shot in the back as he attempted to escape in his vehicle. Three others have resigned since Wednesday, WAVY-TV reported.

Brown’s family is scheduled to view the bodycam footage from the shooting on Monday and later will issue a statement with noted civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. The family and Crump joined with others in the community in calling for the sheriff’s department to release the footage, but Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten only a judge can authorize its release.

“It’s clear to us there is something bad on that bodycam video. Transparency is essential,” Crump, who reportedly had yet to see the footage, said on Sunday.

As part of the emergency declaration, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools will operate remotely until at least Friday, officials, “due to the continuously evolving state of civil unrest.”

“Due to the continuously evolving state of civil unrest in our local community and under the advisement of our local law enforcement partners, ECPPS will operate on a full remote schedule for all students and staff through April 30, 2021,” the school district said in a statement. “Schools will share additional information regarding the remote learning schedule with families. We appreciate your support and understanding during this time.”

In a video with Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg, Wooten said he is pushing for “transparency.”

“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, adding that he hopes the court will decide on the issue by Monday.

They also said that Brown was accused of felony drug charges, was a convicted felon, and had a history of resisting arrest.

Brown’s family was joined by civil rights leaders and Elizabeth City-based Rev. William Barber II in calling for the bodycam footage to be released to the public.

“America, here is the issue: a warrant is not a license to kill, even if a suspect supposedly drives away,” Barber said in a speech to supporters on Saturday. “A warrant is not permission to shoot someone. We’re sick and tired of all these deaths happening that don’t have to happen. Release the tapes!”

Wooten has said that his department’s tactical team was executing a drug-related warrant when Brown, who has 10 children, was shot. In the video he released, he pushed back on “false claims” that he alone has the authority to release body cam footage.

The state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, also weighed in.

“Initial reports of the shooting in Elizabeth City and death of Andrew Brown, Jr. this week are tragic and extremely concerning,” he wrote on Twitter. “The body camera footage should be made public as quickly as possible and the SBI should investigate thoroughly to ensure accountability.”

Wooten, in the video, committed to fully cooperate with any investigations and even called for an outside sheriff’s department or law enforcement agency to come in and conduct an internal affairs-like probe.

Police have described Brown, 42, as someone long know to have engaged in past and present criminal behavior. His criminal history dates to the 1990s when he was convicted on drug charges.

Wooten said in an interview with WAVY-TV that multiple body cam angles would be released this week.

Jon Dougherty

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