(Reuters) -Attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man shot by sheriff’s deputies in North Carolina during an attempted arrest last week, said body camera footage showed Brown had been “executed” and accused officials of withholding evidence.
Lawyers said the 42-year-old Brown had his hands on the steering wheel of his car when multiple deputies began firing at him in his driveway in Elizabeth City, a riverfront community near the Virginia border.
The deputies continued to shoot after Brown drove his vehicle away from them, according to Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, who said Brown never presented a threat to the team of seven or eight officers at the scene.
“They were shooting and saying: ‘Let me see your hands!’ at the same time,” Cherry-Lassiter, one of a team of attorneys for the family, told a news briefing on Monday. “Let’s be clear: This was an execution.”
The shooting last Wednesday, a day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd after a highly publicized trial, has so far led to small, peaceful protests in Elizabeth City, whose population of roughly 18,000 is half African American.
But the city, which serves as the seat of Pasquotank County, had declared a state of emergency before showing the video to the family, anticipating it could trigger unrest.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten and Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg said last week that the shooting occurred as deputies were trying to serve an arrest and search warrants on Brown stemming from a felony drug charge, and Brown had a history of resisting arrest.
On Monday they urged the public to hold off judgement until all the evidence is weighed.
“This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher. They only tell part of the story,” Wooten said in a video posted on social media on Monday along with Fogg.
The death certificate indicated Brown died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to CNN.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for the family, said there was evidence from at least nine cameras, including police body cam and dashcam videos, but that the victim’s lawyers were shown only a 20-second portion from a single body cam video after Pasquotank County Attorney Michael Cox decided against showing more.
“We do not feel we got transparency. We only saw a snippet of the video,” Crump said. “They were going to show the whole video, then decided at the last minute they were going to redact it.”
Wooten and Cox did not respond to requests for comment.
Cox issued a statement earlier on Monday to explain why it was taking so long to release video evidence. He said state law allowed officials to blur faces if needed to protect an active internal investigation, and the process took time.
Wooten said last week the investigation of the shooting had been turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and that it had the body camera video.
The SBI’s investigation will be completed as quickly as possible, said Anjanette Grube, a spokeswoman for the agency. Grube said the SBI did not have the authority to release the video, which must be greenlighted by a court under state law.
Wooten has said his office is seeking court approval to release the video to the public. Attorneys for the Brown family said a court hearing was scheduled for Wednesday on whether the body cam footage could be disclosed to media organizations.
Wooten’s office said on Friday that seven sheriff’s deputies were placed on administrative leave after the shooting and that three additional deputies had resigned, although the resignations were not related to the shooting.
(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York, Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, and Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey; Additional reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)