Civil rights leaders, NC residents meet with Gov. Cooper to call for greater transparency in Andrew Brown Jr. investigation

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Weeks after deputies shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr., dozens of people from Elizabeth City came to Raleigh to meet with Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and other state leaders Wednesday, calling for greater transparency in the investigation and ones like it.

Deputies with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office killed Brown in April while trying to serve warrants.

“We have support. Because the racists in our community think we’re wasting our time, and we would like to show them that we are not,” said Jessica Kelly after the meeting.

District Attorney Andrew Womble declined to pursue charges against the deputies last month, saying Brown acted recklessly when he used his car as a “deadly weapon” while trying to get away from the deputies.

The case sparked weeks of marches and protests, as the general public demanded to see the body camera video of the incident. It also sparked a broader push to change the state’s law dealing with the release of that video.

Keith Rivers, president of the Pasquotank County NAACP, said, “His family needs to see that video. They need to know what is on that video, what happened to their brother, what happened to their daddy?”

Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has called for body camera videos to be presumed to be public records under the law.

Currently, for news media and the general public to see that video and to share it with others, they have to file a petition in Superior Court and get permission from a judge.

Republicans in the General Assembly have resisted calls to change that part of the law, but they have gotten behind a change that would give families the right to view unredacted video within five business days of a police incident that results in death or serious injury.

“For weeks, Senate Republicans have committed to reviewing the current laws related to body-worn camera footage at the appropriate time,” Sen. Danny Britt (R-Columbus/Robeson) said when that change was introduced last month. “Families deserve the chance to view footage of a serious incident as soon as possible, and in working with the Legislative Black Caucus we identified reasonable improvements to the existing process.”

Cooper, who called Wednesday’s meeting “amazing,” said much of it focused on changes proposed by a racial equity taskforce he formed last year following the murder of George Floyd.

“I appreciated hearing from them. It’s clear that we have a lot of work to do to fight for racial justice,” he said.

The group also called on a change to state law to require a special prosecutor be appointed for cases like this one.

District Attorney Womble pushed back on that proposal the day he announced the deputies would not face charges.

“A special prosecutor or outside counsel is not accountable to the people of this judicial district. I am,” he said. “In these particular cases, I am basing decisions on the facts, the evidence and the law.”

The group from Elizabeth City will travel to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to meet with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice. They’re calling on the FBI to expedite the civil rights investigation into Brown’s death.

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