Tensions are flaring in the streets of Elizabeth City, North Carolina and the situation may become worse before it gets better as a North Carolina judge ruled on Wednesday that the bodycam footage from the officer-involved shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. will be released, but with a catch.
According to Fox News, Superior Court Judge Jeffery Foster will allow the public release of the bodycam footage of the shooting incident, but it’ll be at least 30 days — and no more than 45 days — before the public is allowed to view the footage, citing a number of safety issues as well as his intent to protect the integrity of the investigation into the tragic incident.
What’s going on?
Judge Foster was petitioned on Wednesday to order the public release of the footage as well as a release to Brown’s immediate family members. He agreed to allow Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s oldest son, along with several immediate family members and a local attorney to be able to view the entirety of the footage within 10 days.
Previously, the family has only been able to see a 20-second clip of the incident from a single bodycam standpoint, which has stirred controversy in the community and raised concerns of a possible cover-up by attorneys representing Brown’s family.
North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) will investigate the shooting, which is what prompted Judge Foster to withhold the public release of the footage for at least 30 days, in order to allow the agency proper time to fully investigate and determine if there was any wrongdoing.
However, the details concerning the release of the footage could change after the SBI presents its findings in the case, which will prompt the judge to make an updated ruling on the details of the public release of the bodycam footage.
In addition to his ruling on Wednesday, the judge denied a petition filed by a group of media organizations to compel him to order the release of the footage, as the group cited compelling public interest in viewing the video.
Attorneys say it was an “execution”
Driving the high tensions in the small North Carolina city were earlier remarks by the attorneys representing Brown’s family who described the officer-involved shooting as an “execution,” which was made especially clear by attorneys on Tuesday after the results of an autopsy showed that Brown was shot in the back of the head.
Brown family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter gave an early account of the situation as Brown desperately trying to flee from the deputies after they opened fire, claiming that Brown went out of his way to avoid deputies as he punched the gas and eventually backed into a vacant lot, before finally succumbing to the gunfire.
District Attorney Andrew Womble raised objections to that account of events, calling the description of what happened “painfully false,” while adding that Brown made “contact” with deputies twice while trying to flee in his vehicle after what should have been a routine search warrant procedure gone horribly wrong.
For the past seven days, protesters have taken to the streets in what have been described as mostly peaceful events, though on Tuesday night, seven protesters were arrested for breaking curfews and for scuffles with responding law enforcement.
Only time will tell how the release of the bodycam footage will impact the local community, but on the heels of other recent incidents, it’s probably best that at least 30 days pass in order to give time for tensions to ratchet back down.