The fact that the videos have not yet been made public has become a key source of anger for protesters who have spent days peacefully filling the streets of Elizabeth City, a historic town of about 18,000 people on the Pasquotank River, about an hour’s drive south of Norfolk, Va. Officials in Elizabeth City and surrounding Pasquotank County issued emergency declarations on Monday morning, citing a potential for “a period of civil unrest” whenever the footage was publicly released.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten II of Pasquotank County, who has faced calls to resign from the local N.A.A.C.P., has said that he supports releasing the videos. Late Monday afternoon, he released a short videotaped message in which he was flanked by Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg, who said that the county attorney had filed a petition for the release of the videos.
“This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds,” Sheriff Wooten said in the video, “and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher. They only tell part of the story.”
News media outlets also filed a legal action in an effort to have the footage released, but their lawyer, Michael J. Tadych, said on Monday that he was not sure when his case would receive a hearing.
Under North Carolina law, police body camera videos can only be released to the public with the approval of a judge. Anybody, including the news media, a police department or a citizen, can request the release of a video, though certain stakeholders can object to its release or ask for sections to be blurred, said Frayda Bluestein, a professor of public law and government at the University of North Carolina.
At the news conference on Monday, Ms. Cherry-Lassiter said the footage she and the family saw showed Mr. Brown behind the wheel of his car in his driveway, a sheriff’s vehicle blocking his exit and deputies surrounding him. “They run up to his vehicle shooting,” she said. Mr. Brown backed up, away from the officers. “It was at no time in the 20 seconds that we saw that he was threatening the officers in any kind of way,” she said.