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CNN NEWSROOM

North Carolina Family Sees Bodycam Video of Police Shooting. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 26, 2021 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

DAVID JAMES, PRESIDENT, LOUISVILLE METRO COUNCIL: If you're looking at if there's any disparate impact upon the policies of the police department upon its citizens, those are all cultural issues within the police department.

And those are all things that need to be addressed.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

JAMES: That means there's areas that need to be changed. That's not a secret.

We have been talking about that for years.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) end up in a consent decree, where the department has to comply (OFF-MIKE) Can you talk about what that would mean for the city and sort of what it means (OFF-MIKE) and any experience you have with that (OFF-MIKE)

ERIKA SHIELDS, LOUISVILLE METRO POLICE CHIEF: So, what I'll say to you is, in terms of the particulars of it, I'll defer to the folks at DOJ.

What I can say is, my good friend Michael Harrison is the commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department. And he and I speak fairly regularly, and they're under consent decree. And what I have seen, through him, is how, if you get the right team running the consent decree, it can do nothing but benefit the department.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right, welcome back.

We are now in the 3:00 hour Eastern, and we have been listening to local city officials that include the mayor, the police chief there, responding to Attorney General Merrick Garland's announcement that the DOJ plans to open an investigation into the police department there in Louisville, Kentucky, after years, last year's shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was killed by police during a botched raid at her apartment there in Kentucky.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: With us now, we have Anthony Barksdale, a CNN law enforcement analyst and former acting Baltimore police commissioner. We also have Elie Honig. He's our CNN senior legal analyst and a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

And, Elie, I just want to start with you about the tone of this press conference. I don't know what I was expecting. But I guess that I found it interesting that the police chief, Erika Shields, was so receptive, and basically said, we welcome it. She said -- she didn't sound defensive. She said: It's OK if we have done things wrong. We're going to do it better.

And she basically said: We need the help. We're glad the DOJ is coming in.

I mean, she said something else really fascinating: We need more tools other than lethal force for officers.

I mean, she has clearly heard what the groundswell of the country is talking about right now. But what can the DOJ offer them by way of help in this investigation?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Alisyn, that's exactly how a city and a police department should react to a DOJ investigation, not as some sort of intrusion to be fought off, but really as an opportunity to do better.

And I think the chief said a couple of important things that really jumped out to me. One, she recognized the need to earn, not just assume, but earn the public trust. And I think she realizes that you can't police effectively by just imposing your will. You have to earn the trust of the people you police.

Second of all, like you said, the need for policy change, the need to get better training, to get less lethal alternatives, Tasers, rubber bullets, other non-lethal forces. And last, really importantly, several of those officials just recognized the need for cultural change within the police department.

We used to say, culture eats policy for lunch in police departments. You can write all the policies you want, but you have to change the fundamental way the police looks at its job and looks at the people that they serve.

So, I think, if they make good on that, that's exactly how the city should react to the DOJ probe.

BLACKWELL: So, Commissioner, one of the things that we learned after the shooting of Breonna Taylor, that was a survey that was conducted inside the police department, in which they found that 75 percent of the respondents inside LMPD said that, if they had a chance to leave and move to another agency, they would.

So, three out of four officers would like to, at that point, leave the department. What does something like this do for morale Because we heard from the chief there. She talked about how it's really difficult to sell their product, to recruit, to keep officers.

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, across the nation, it's hard to recruit officers at this point in time. A consent decree, in my opinion, may chase the ones who don't believe in what the chief is saying out of the department. Things will change with the DOJ's involvement, new rules, new procedures, new training.

So, maybe this is exactly what the chief needs to shift that department in a new direction.

CAMEROTA: Just so interesting.

I mean, but, Elie do we know yet, if the DOJ finds that there was gross malpractice, for lack of a better word, in the Louisville Police Department, what will happen?

[15:05:12]

HONIG: So, essentially, when DOJ starts an investigation like this, there's a hard way and an easy way.

The easy way, which almost always ends up happening, is what we call a consent decree, meaning an agreement, a settlement between the police department and DOJ saying, here's how we're going to reform, here's how we're going to change over the years, here are things that we're committed to.

The hard way, if the police department resists, is a federal lawsuit filed by DOJ, which no department wants. There's only trouble down that path. So I do look for them to reach that kind of agreed-upon consent decree here.

BLACKWELL: Elie, you have participated in a similar investigation with the Newark Police Department. And now that we have got this in Louisville, it just adds to the list and the question that I have and so many others have.

There was only a DOJ investigation in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray. The investigation in Ferguson came after Mike Brown. The investigation in Minneapolis came after George Floyd, Chicago, Laquan McDonald, Louisville, Breonna Taylor.

If the disparities are known, why do black people have to die on camera in order for the Department of Justice to look into those disparities? Why does this big exclamation point have to happen before this work starts?

HONIG: That's such a great question, Victor.

And I have the exact same question today. I mean, isn't it a shame, isn't it a tragedy that it takes one of these events to draw enough public attention and government attention to police departments that need reform?

Because there are so many other public -- police departments around the country where they have not had a Laquan McDonald, they have not had an incident that's necessarily gathered headlines, but still need reform so badly. And in the case of Newark, I can tell you firsthand, it does make a difference. These investigations take a long time, a lot of resources, but you can really see improvement and change. And, as someone said earlier during the press conference, sometimes, when you see one police department making change for the better, that can be a leader, and other police departments will follow suit.

CAMEROTA: Commissioner, what do you think could bring back interest in people wanting to become police officers, since recruitment is, as she said, so difficult right now in Louisville and across the country?

I mean, what do you think could -- what reforms could take place right now?

BARKSDALE: I don't know if it's so much the reforms.

I think it's the finding, the actual going out and finding the right individuals, those who believe that police officers still should serve the public, serve the community, and give them their all. So, basically, it can be done. The reforms that come in, hey, that's fine. That's a cherry on top.

But this comes down to people, people wanting to serve others. And that's where the focus needs to be to really get that change in a department.

BLACKWELL: All right, Commissioner, Elie Honig, stay with us.

We're going to go to North Carolina to Elizabeth City, as the family of Andrew Brown Jr., they are -- we believe are now watching this video. At least, they're in with county officials.

Natasha Chen, what do about what's happening inside that building?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the family members and the attorneys actually just stepped outside. So, it could be any second now that they begin speaking to the press about this.

I'm sure we will we will take those comments when they begin. But this -- they spent about -- let's see, it's just past 3:00 now. They spent a little more than an hour in there, a handful of family members.

And keep in mind that this was a delayed appointment, that, originally, they had been scheduled to come in at 11:30 today. And then the county attorney explained that they needed more time because they were going to redact this body camera footage first.

The county attorney cited a state statute saying that they could, for example, blur faces, if needed, to protect an active internal investigation. And so they asked for more time before showing this footage privately to the family members. Of course, in North Carolina, to release this footage publicly, it takes more steps.

In fact, it requires a court order, which is why we are not all seeing the body camera footage right now. There are several entities that have filed petitions with the court to be able to have that video released. That includes the Elizabeth City Council. The city has issued a formal letter to the sheriff's office to wait for their response on that.

A coalition of news organizations have now filed a petition with the state court. That includes CNN. So, this is going to be quite a process for the public to see this.

But it is quite a step for the family now to have privately seen the footage that no one has for more than five days since Andrew Brown Jr. Was shot and killed by deputies as they were executing a warrant related to felony drug charges, according to the sheriff's office.

[15:10:12]

And they're -- we -- of course, today, CNN has obtained the death certificate for Andrew Brown Jr., showing that he died with a penetrating wound to the head.

And the death was categorized as a homicide, so this information very troubling to the family members, to the community that's been walking and marching peacefully throughout the city for the last few days, really just asking questions and not getting many answers, city officials even saying -- the city mayor today told CNN that they're getting more details from the media than from county officials, so a lot of frustration here as well.

Everyone is sort of on bated breath here waiting to see what the attorneys will say, if they will describe any of the video that they have seen inside. And, of course, the video itself was a few minutes' long, we would think. So, the fact that they spent about more than an hour in there, perhaps there were many discussions in there. We're waiting to see what the attorneys can share with us about that meeting.

BLACKWELL: Natasha Chen for us there in Elizabeth City.

And, of course, being able to see the video is, of course, to get to those answers. We don't know if they got the answers they're looking for in that video, because, as we have been told by the family's attorneys, that there were some redactions that were happening.

CAMEROTA: So, we are standing by, waiting for the family to come out and tell us what they actually were allowed to see.

We will bring that to you as soon as it happens. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:47]

CAMEROTA: We're taking you right now to Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The family has just emerged from seeing, we believe, the bodycam video in the Andrew Brown Jr. case.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: -- for transparency, accountability, and truth.

What we witness here, our legal team -- and you're going to hear from our legal team, who got to witness the video, and then you're going to hear from the family members. And then we will take your questions.

We want to say on the record, from the onset, we do not feel that we got transparency. We only saw a snippet of the video, when we know that the video started before and after what they showed the family. And they determined what was pertinent.

Why couldn't the family see all of the video? They only showed one bodycam video, even though we know there were several bodycam videos, if they were following the law and the policy in this county that everybody has video cameras on their uniforms.

Furthermore -- and you're going to hear from attorney Sellers and attorney Daniels on this matter -- to add insult to injury, they wanted to have just the two family members see the video with no legal counsel, as if they did not have a right to have their legal counsel present when they watched this execution of their loved one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's exactly what it was.

CRUMP: And we have to keep demanding transparency, because we do not feel what the county attorney offered was transparency at all.

And so it's very emotional, not only the video, but how this family was disrespected, even in the aftermath. You talk about insult on top of injury.

But be not dismayed. The truth will come out there. The video will be seen by the public. And we will get justice for Andrew Brown Jr. These police officers will be held accountable.

At this time, a great -- I know you all know him from his political commentary on CNN. But he is a great civil rights attorney as well. He's going to speak to you, and then it's going to be followed by attorney Daniels. And then we're going to have attorney Lassiter, who is going to tell you blow by blow what was seen in just that snippet, that 20-second video that we know it's much farther.

Attorney Bakari Sellers.

BAKARI SELLERS, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: So, we want to we want to highlight -- I want to highlight the disrespect to this family.

I want to highlight the broken system of justice we have in this country. As we're going through this process, we told the family that they would have their attorneys in there as some comfort.

We went back and forth. And I just want you to say I have never been talked to like I was talked to in there. I don't know his name, but I went -- I went to the back. And I know that we're live on the news around the world.

So I will say that Mr. Cox told me, a grown black man, that he was not fucking going to be bullied.

And so I walked out, and I want you to know that the sheriff was very, very apologetic and diplomatic. The sheriff wanted to make sure that the family saw the video, but it was the county attorney that gave us this back-and-forth.

[15:20:13]

But let's not focus just on the disrespect shown to me. Let's focus on the disrespect shown to this family, one bodycam, 20 seconds, an execution.

One bodycam, 20 seconds and an execution. And so, with all due respect, I know there were a lot of people who thought last week's verdict was justice. And I told you then it wasn't justice, because we still can't get justice and accountability today.

I'm only going to be brief because I'm hot right now. But I do want to say a special -- a special prayer goes out to this family, because Khalil saw his father executed. But he's been the strongest one of us all.

So, let him up in your prayers. And then, as we say in South Carolina -- I know we're in North Carolina -- to the county attorney and everybody else, bless his heart.

CRUMP: Thank you, Bakari.

And now you're going to hear from another great civil rights lawyer who hails out of Atlanta, Georgia, who has actually been in communications with the county attorney for days, trying to get this process set. And he's litigated matters all over the country. And never had he been disrespected like he was today.

He's going to tell you his perspective, before I bring on attorney Lassiter, attorney Harry Daniels, who's been dotting I's and crossing T's for the family.

HARRY DANIELS, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: Thank you, Ben.

1965, Selma, Alabama, it was Bloody Sunday, a resistance for fundamental rights to vote, rights to vote. This family had a fundamental right for transparency that was denied, denied by the county officials of Pasquotank County, specifically the county attorney, because he don't know how to interpret the laws of North Carolina.

His position, that you had to be an authorized -- a licensed attorney in the state of North Carolina to represent both. I offered him the ability to read the state bar rules, the rules of the bar. He didn't want to read it. We offered an attorney general to him. He didn't want to talk to him.

We offered a governor. He told Bakari he's not going to be bullied. Twenty seconds. Twenty seconds is not transparency, when you got multiple officers gunning down a man with his hands on the steering wheel and trying to get away.

We will have justice. We will have justice.

CRUMP: Amen.

DANIELS: But, Ben, have you ever...

CRUMP: Never.

DANIELS: Have you ever, in all your time you have been doing this, have you ever seen this before?

CRUMP: Never.

I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Pasquotank County.

CRUMP: And we're -- attorney Daniels and attorney Sellers, they were trying to reason with him and say that we are lawyers retained by the family. We -- the American Constitution gives citizens the right to have the lawyer of their own choosing.

And he tried to tell us, no, if you're not barred in North Carolina, this family does not have the right to say my lawyer can watch the video with me. And Harry quoted in the statute verbatim.

DANIELS: We gave them...

CRUMP: And it never once said North Carolina...

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS: We gave them the statute. There's nothing to say North Carolina whatsoever. You can associate with an attorney in North Carolina.

Pro hac vice is not, does not mean that you cannot associate and hire any attorney you want in the United States, in the United States. Ben can hire me. I can hire Ben as my counsel.

CRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

CRUMP: All right.

Thank you so much, attorney Daniels, for covering that. And it got really emotional, because attorney Daniels had been working with them. We wanted this process to be seamless. I mean, we had verbal confirmation. We had written confirmation, only to be told at the 11th hour that, no, only the family is going to come in.

That be as it may, we have a great member of our legal team who hails here in the state of North Carolina. In fact, she's right here from Elizabeth City, North Carolina. And not only is she a great lawyer. She is the attorney who had been representing Andrew Brown Jr. and his family even before this tragedy happened.

[15:25:17]

And she knew them. So this is very personal. And this is very painful. But she was tasked with the responsibility to watch whatever video they were going to allow us to see, even though Harry and Bakari, we didn't know it was going to be a 20-second snippet.

She watched it. And she documented it over and over again to make sure she could relate to you all what happened, so, when you heard from the family, you didn't have to rely solely on them, because their heart was breaking as they watched the video.

In fact, Patrice had to run out the room. She couldn't take it. And thank God, as Bakari said, Khalil, he stood there and represented his family as they watched that video probably 10 to 20 times, knowing every time it ended with them executing their father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty seconds.

CRUMP: So, attorney Katrise (ph) Lassiter will now tell you -- I'm sorry -- attorney Chantel Lassiter will now tell you what this video demonstrated.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... use your notes, use your notes.

CRUMP: Yes. And she may refer to her notes. But it's pretty clear what they did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know why they want to keep it from us.

CRUMP: Attorney Lassiter and Khalil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your time. As loud as you can.

CRUMP: You all, please be quiet, so Katrise won't have to scream.

CHANTEL CHERRY-LASSITER, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: Chantel.

CRUMP: I'm sorry.

CHERRY-LASSITER: That's my mom.

CRUMP: Yes, that's your mom.

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

Andrew Brown was in his driveway. The sheriff blocked him in his driveway, so he could not exit his driveway. Andrew had his hands on his steering wheel. He was not reaching for anything. He wasn't touching anything. He wasn't anything throwing anything around.

He had his hands firmly on the steering wheel. They run up to his vehicle shooting. He still stood there, sat there in his vehicle with his hands on the steering wheel while being shot at.

Now, keep in mind, this is 20 seconds. I have three pages of notes for 20 seconds. We watched this over and over and over to make sure we were clear at what was being -- going on and what was transpiring.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your time, Chantel.

CHERRY-LASSITER: He finally decides to try to get away. And he backs out, not going towards the officers at all. There was at no time in the 20 seconds that we saw where he was threatening the officers in any kind of way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

CHERRY-LASSITER: He was trying to evade being shot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

CHERRY-LASSITER: So, he backs out, not forward, but backs out, away from the officers, who are still shooting at him, yelling: "Stop it, motherfucker. God damn, motherfucker."

Constant obscenities being yelled at him while he's being shot at in the driveway of his home in Pasquotank County, North Carolina.

I'm taking my time, you all, but it was 20 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your time.

CHERRY-LASSITER: He finally backs out.

And then he goes around. To get out of danger, he goes around, still avoiding any interaction with the officers, still trying to make sure he did not threaten them in any way, that they would were endangered in any way.

He backs out, goes around them. And they're still shooting at him while he's driving off. He drives off. The car runs into a tree and they're still running behind him -- let me make sure I get this right with these guns that were there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow.

(CROSSTALK)

CHERRY-LASSITER: Bushmaster AR-223s and Glock 17 handguns.

It was numerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, that was assault..

CHERRY-LASSITER: Numerous assault rifles were at the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes.

CHERRY-LASSITER: We saw one vehicle -- one video, 20 seconds from one bodycam. It was at least eight officers there. We only saw one bodycam.

It was a sheriff's truck there. We didn't see any dashcam video. We just saw that one bodycam.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... got to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got to go. Got to go. Got to go.

(CROSSTALK)

CHERRY-LASSITER: Yes, he was still -- I just want to make it clear that he was -- yes, they were still shooting at him after the car had already crashed into a tree.

They were still -- still in the stance of shooting

[15:30:00]