The Paquotank County Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to ask the General Assembly to change North Carolina’s body camera law, saying their inability to release footage of Andrew Brown’s death has generated rumors and negative attention.
Brown, 42, died April 21 in Elizabeth City as sheriff’s deputies arrived at his home to serve search and arrest warrants based on a drug investigation.
Neighbors and his attorney said he tried to speed away after deputies opened fire, and an autopsy commissioned by the family showed Brown had been shot in the back of the head.
Weeks of protests followed Brown’s death, which came just hours after jurors in Minnesota convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd. Most of the Elizabeth City protests focused on the video not being shown. Brown’s family saw only a 20-second clip of multiple available videos.
Under a state law passed in 2016, only a judge can order body camera footage released to the public. Last week, Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster declined to do so.
“We believe in this case that it would be best to release the footage and we were disappointed in the court’s ruling,” Commission Chairman Lloyd Griffin III said during the commissioners’ virtual meeting.
The resolution called the current law “onerous,” but Griffin noted it will be followed in Brown’s case because the General Assembly would take time to change it.
The resolution also noted the city and county’s pain and said “the national spotlight has been negatively focused on our community.”
“I didn’t get what I wanted in court but I do respect the judge’s ruling,” Sheriff Tommy Wooten said in the virtual meeting. “Law enforcement should have the ability to release the body camera footage to the public to ensure transparency that the public expects today.”