A coalition of more than 20 media companies is waiting to hear if a court will release law enforcement video footage of a shooting death involving three Pasquotank sheriff’s deputies in April.
A hearing earlier this week on the companies’ amended petition to release footage of Andrew Brown Jr.’s death was heard by Chief Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett on Monday in Currituck County.
After the hearing, Tillett announced he would render a decision shortly.
Mike Tadych, an attorney with Stevens, Martin, Vaughan & Tadych who is representing the media coalition, said after the hearing that it could be at least several days before Tillett makes a ruling.
Tillett told the court reporter that he would need portions of the hearing transcripts for his ruling and that he would let the court reporter know what he needed, Tadych said.
“I would hope in the next week or so,” Tadych said.
Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster of Greenville denied initial petition by the Elizabeth City Daily Advance and other news organizations. The request for the videos’ release was made a week after Brown’s death.
Foster ruled the release “wasn’t appropriate at this time” because it could jeopardize the State Bureau of Investigation’s probe then underway. Foster also said releasing the deputies’ body and dash camera footage could hamper any potential defendants’ right to a fair trial.
The media coalition is seeking all video recordings beginning at 8 a.m. on April 21, including the shooting of Brown and its aftermath and protests at the scene and later that evening. They are also seeking the video of static cameras in the area operated by the Elizabeth City Police Department.
District Attorney Andrew Womble again opposed the release since Brown’s family has filed a $30 million federal wrongful death suit, naming Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten, the three deputies, the Dare County sheriff and other involved in Brown’s fatal shooting
“We know of at least one civil action filed,” Womble told Tillett.
Tillett and Womble also questioned whether law enforcement officers whose images or voices appear in the recordings were aware of the media request, asking if they had been served.
Tadych responded that “we don’t know who is in the images” because he has not viewed the video.
“If I understand correctly, what Judge Tillett was saying was, that filing a petition and defending a petition on behalf of the media, we did not file what is known as a summons, which is document issued by the clerk giving official notice to the parties involved that day have been sued for a particular thing,” Tadych said. “I think the district attorney’s position was that we should have summons issued and served.”
Tadych told the court that in other petitions where he has requested hours of recordings that law enforcement took it upon themselves to identify those who needed to be notified of a hearing.
“I don’t think anyone has addressed part of the statue that law enforcement agencies give notice to those that are in the videos,” Tadych said. “There have been times when we have had other officers involved shootings and the investigation isn’t even complete and we have got a release. Asking for public records, we often don’t know what is in them, so we really don’t understand the difficulty and resistance in getting them.’’