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Elizabeth City Mayor Urges Calm After Judge Rules Not To Release Bodycam Footage


Today in North Carolina, Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster heard arguments over the police footage of the shooting and killing of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City. Judge Foster decided that, for the time being, the public will not see those recordings.


JEFF FOSTER: The court orders as follows - that the body camera videos be disclosed to Khalil Ferebee and his immediate family within one degree of kinship and one attorney licensed to practice law in the state of North Carolina. That is disclosure - that the video be held from release for a period of no less than 30 days and no more than 45 days.

KELLY: Well, we spoke with Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker not long after the judge ruled today. Her city has been the site of mostly peaceful protests since Brown was killed in the encounter with officers from the county sheriff's office. She told me Judge Foster did not rule the way she hoped he would.

BETTIE PARKER: I am disappointed that we still have to wait longer before it is released. Our police department is stretched to the nth degree, and we're hoping that this will not have adverse actions in our city.

KELLY: Have you seen any of the bodycam video, either the short snippet that I know the family's been allowed to see, 20 seconds, or a fuller version of the video?

PARKER: I have not. And the county has shared very little with the city.

KELLY: That may make this next question moot. But one of the things that jumped out at me from today's proceedings has been a discrepancy. Andrew Brown's family and the attorneys for that family say the snippet of video they have seen shows an execution. And I have interviewed one of their attorneys, and she has described to me why she thinks that term is appropriate. The DA today disputed that in the hearing. He says Andrew Brown's car was moving, that it made contact with law enforcement before shots were fired. Can you shed any light on this discrepancy?

PARKER: I have no clue other than they did not show the family the part that would indicate that Andrew Brown had hit an officer. And I have talked with family members, and they are very frustrated. That is before this verdict, I had talked to them about having that 20-second snippet. So only explanation I can have is that maybe they did not show that. They said it was about 30 seconds long, and they only showed 20 seconds. And also there, I believe, were redactions.

KELLY: The judge also apparently bought the argument that the DA has made that releasing the video could interfere with the investigation. I understand that you're speaking to us without the benefit of having seen any of this video. But I wonder, as mayor, you want a fair and thorough investigation to play out. You're obviously also speaking to the need for public information. How do you weigh that? There's a real tension there.

PARKER: Yes, there is. And it's very hard. Sometimes I find myself between a rock and a hard place, but I do not want the community to lose trust in our law enforcement. However, some of the other states allow the video cam from the officers to be released immediately, or at least within a 24- to 48-hour period. And so with that not happening here, it is causing problems for our law enforcement and also with me and trying to get across to the city that this is all we have. Trust that I am being transparent. And I probably don't know much more than what you see in the media. That's unfortunate because they expect the leader of their town, the face of their city, to know more. But I don't because the county is not sharing with me nor with my manager or police officers.

KELLY: You have declared a state of emergency and put a curfew in effect. That will be in effect tonight?

PARKER: Yes, it will be.

KELLY: Starting what time?

PARKER: It starts at 8, and it ends at 6 a.m.

KELLY: Does - Mayor, does the - do you worry that this ruling to not release the video raises the chances that tonight or a future night could get ugly?

PARKER: I pray that it doesn't happen, but I am real concerned. Last night...

KELLY: And may I just - if I may, what is your message to people who may be thinking of coming out tonight? What do you want to tell them?

PARKER: My message is, continue to be nonviolent. Continue to be peaceful. And our citizens are, and they are listening to us. But we listen to our intel, also, which gives us information that there is a possibility of disturbance. So I'm telling everybody to just simply remain calm. The video is not coming out immediately. But if I recall correctly, the judge has indicated that it should come out within 30 to 45 days. So it's coming. If you come out and you go from peaceful to violent, it's not going to make a difference if your objective is to get a look at the video.

KELLY: Bettie Parker. She is the mayor of Elizabeth City, N.C.

Mayor Parker, thank you for speaking with us. We wish you and your city well tonight.

PARKER: Thank you so much. And you have a good day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and NPR.org, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.
Mia Venkat
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