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Efforts to release body camera video in Andrew Brown case down to one final push

A North Carolina judge denied a renewed request from media organizations to publicly release the videos. Sheriff Tommy Wooten's complaint is the last one standing.

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — Author's note: The video above is on file from October 2021.

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten's latest request to release the body camera videos of Andrew Brown Jr.'s death is the public's final chance to watch how Brown died.

In April, Pasquotank County sheriff's deputies shot and killed Brown while he was driving away from them. 

The deputies were executing a felony warrant for drug-related charges and a search warrant at the time. 

The shooting sparked months of protests, national attention, and calls for the body camera videos to be released publicly.

District Attorney Andrew Womble shared parts of the body camera videos at a news conference in May, using specific and selective clips to support his ruling that the shooting was justified. 

Since then, the videos have not been shared with the general public, as North Carolina law requires a judge to give a court order to release body camera footage to the public.

On Oct. 29, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett dismissed a renewed request from more than 20 media organizations to get and share the videos with the public.

In his order, Tillett said there were procedural issues with the filing.

An attorney representing the media coalition disagreed with the procedural conclusions offered by Tillett, but told 13News Now it's undecided if the media groups will appeal the ruling. 

This summer, Brown's family pulled its request for the public release of the videos, as it pursues a federal lawsuit for damages.

That leaves Wooten, who asked for the videos from his deputies' body cameras to be released shortly after the shooting.

Wooten filed a new civil complaint on Sept. 10 against DA Womble and the deputies involved, saying release is “necessary to advance a compelling public interest.” 

This new request is pending.

During administrative hearings in Pasquotank County on Monday, court leaders said Wooten's attorney John Leidy still needs to file to get a hearing scheduled for this body camera petition.

Currently, it's not listed on the court's calendar, but the trial court coordinators said that could change quickly if the lawsuit progresses.

The sheriff's civil complaint will take the place of the petition he filed in May shortly after Womble's ruling. That petition has been on hold for six months.

Court leaders told 13News Now that the civil complaint filed in September is procedurally the correct way for the sheriff to request the release of these videos.

In the administrative hearings, they said Leidy needs to file a motion to close out the sheriff's petition that was filed in May. 

There are five body camera videos and one vehicle dashboard video of the shooting. In total, the PCSO has more than 122 minutes of footage.

About a month after the shooting, Wooten announced his office had finished its administrative investigation of the case.

None of the deputies were fired and Wooten said they didn't violate Pasquotank County policies, although some were required to take additional training courses.

In the civil complaint, Wooten argues there is "good cause" to release the recordings to the public, even with redactions, as it will advance a "compelling public interest."

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