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Release Of Bodycam Footage Of N.C. Man's Death Delayed By Judge

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There are two starkly different narratives coming out about what happened in the moments before Andrew Brown Jr. was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies in North Carolina. The answer may be found in body camera videos, but the public won't see that footage for at least a month. This is what a judge ruled on Wednesday. At that hearing, officials disclosed dramatic new details about what they say is on those tapes. And their version of events is clashing with what family say they saw in a brief portion of the footage this week. NPR's Sarah McCammon reports from Elizabeth City, N.C.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Outside the Pasquotank County Courthouse, Demetria Williams was waiting, hoping the public could also see what she says she already saw.

DEMETRIA WILLIAMS: I just know that the day that it happened, I heard one shot, and I ran down there. And that's when I seen the officer standing behind him executing that man.

MCCAMMON: Williams lives a few houses down from where Andrew Brown Jr. was killed. On the morning of April 21, while Pasquotank County deputies were trying to carry out a warrant, Williams says they boxed Brown into his driveway and shot at him from behind while his hands were on the steering wheel of his car. Her account matches what family members and their lawyers have described.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CHANTEL CHERRY-LASSITER: Let's be clear. This was an execution.

MCCAMMON: That's attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, speaking to reporters on Monday after Brown family members were allowed to see one 20-second clip of bodycam footage.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CHERRY-LASSITER: He was not reaching for anything. He wasn't touching anything. He wasn't throwing anything around. He had his hands firmly on the steering wheel. They run up to his vehicle shooting.

MCCAMMON: But inside the courtroom yesterday, District Attorney Andrew Womble disputed that account and called out the Brown family attorney by name.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDREW WOMBLE: Ms. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter made comments to an open mic.

MCCAMMON: Womble suggested she was trying to prejudice a potential jury with her statements.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WOMBLE: And on top of that, they were patently false.

MCCAMMON: Saying he wanted to set the record straight, Womble told the judge that the bodycam footage showed Brown hitting sheriff's deputies with his car before the shooting began.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WOMBLE: The next movement of the car is forward. It is in the direction of law enforcement and makes contact with law enforcement. It is then and only then that you hear shots.

MCCAMMON: Womble argued that releasing the footage could jeopardize both the investigation and the possibility of a fair trial. Afterward, Cherry-Lassiter responded.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHERRY-LASSITER: At no time have I given any misrepresentations. I still stand by what I saw. I told everyone what I saw. We had 20 seconds. We watched it over and over to ensure that - I tried as best I could not to miss anything.

MCCAMMON: Lawyers for the Brown family say the dispute over what's on the tapes is all the more reason to release them soon. Last night, protesters continued what have become daily marches through the streets of Elizabeth City, shouting Andrew Brown's name and demanding answers.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Release the tape.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) The whole tape.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) The whole tape.

MCCAMMON: For now, they'll have to wait a bit longer. Within 10 days, the judge says he'll allow the Brown family to view the remaining bodycam footage and in 30 to 45 days, release it to the public.

Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Elizabeth City, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF DISTANT.LO'S "TOO OFTEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.