Ben Crump Criticizes Police for Releasing Andrew Brown Arrest Warrant Before Body Cam Footage

The shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. last week in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, sparked protests and calls for officials to release the officer body camera footage.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is among the lawyers representing Brown's family, was critical of Pasquotank County officials who released Brown's arrest warrant before the officer's body camera footage was made public. He told reporters Monday morning that the delay was to protect the law enforcement officers, the Associated Press reported.

"Now, you all may have noticed that they released a warrant saying all kinds of things about Andrew Brown, but they want to redact the face of the...officers that killed Andrew Brown," Crump said, adding that officials blurring deputies' faces are "going to protect them and not show their face and not say their names...because what they want to do is assassinate the character" of Brown.

Brown was fatally shot outside his home last Wednesday by North Carolina deputies who obtained a search warrant after investigators allegedly recorded him selling small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine to an informant, according to court documents released Monday.

Brown's family hoped to have a private viewing of the body cam footage on Monday morning, but county officials initially said that would be delayed because they are in the process of blurring some faces in the video. Body camera video is not public record and usually requires a judge to sign off a release.

On Monday, a family attorney watched a 20-second portion of the recording with Brown's family. Attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said Brown had his hands on the steering wheel when he was shot and did not appear to be a threat to officers as he backed his vehicle out and tried to drive away.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Andrew Brown Protest
Demonstrators walk in the street during a protest march in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Protesters called for the release of body camera footage from the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. on April 21, 2021. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II has said that multiple deputies fired shots. Elizabeth City police were not involved in the shooting. Seven deputies are on leave pending a probe by the state's Bureau of Investigation.

The warrant released Monday was obtained by the sheriff's office and signed by a local judge to allow the search of Brown's Elizabeth City home.

It said that an investigator in nearby Dare County was told by the informant that the person had been purchasing crack cocaine and other drugs for over a year from Brown. The informant described purchasing drugs at the house that was the target of the search.

The warrant said that in March, local narcotics officers used the informant to conduct controlled purchases of methamphetamine and cocaine from Brown on two separate occasions. The warrant says both drug transactions were recorded using audio and video equipment.

The search warrant said investigators believed Brown was storing drugs in the home or two vehicles. The document, which indicated the search wasn't completed, didn't list anything found.

The arrest warrants, which were released last week, charged him with possession with intent to sell and deliver 3 grams of each of the drugs.

Calls have been growing to release deputy body camera footage of the incident. Wooten has said he would ask a local judge as early as Monday to allow the release of the footage. A coalition of media has also petitioned the court for its release, and city officials also plan to.

Short of releasing it publicly, state law allows law enforcement to show body camera video privately to a victim's family. County officials said Monday they will show the video to family after blurring out some of the faces in the video to protect an active internal investigation.

"As soon as these redactions are complete, we will allow the family to view this footage," Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said in a statement. "We hope this occurs today, but the actual time will be driven by the completion of the redactions."

Also Monday, Elizabeth City officials declared a state of emergency amid concerns about how demonstrators would react to a possible video release. Protests since the shooting in the eastern North Carolina town of about 18,000 have generally been peaceful.