Gov. Cooper urges special prosecutor to take over death investigation of Andrew Brown Jr.; AG says his office can’t intervene unless asked

Andrew Brown Jr.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper is again speaking out amid controversy surrounding the deadly deputy shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City.

Cooper says a special prosecutor should be brought in to handle all matters regarding the shooting in Pasquotank County in “the interest of justice and confidence in the judicial system.”

“This would help assure the community and Mr. Brown’s family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias,” Cooper said.

The governor went on to say that the position is “consistent with the change in the law recommended by our Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice which calls for a special prosecutor in police shootings, and I believe the law should be changed to help ensure it.”

State Attorney General Josh Stein said state law puts control of criminal prosecutions in the hands of the local district attorney, so his office cannot intervene unless asked. He said he has offered assistance to the local prosecutor, but has only received an acknowledgment.

“For my office to play a role in the prosecution, the District Attorney must request our assistance,” Stein said.

District Attorney Andrew Womble, who oversees Pasquotank County, issued a statement noting that state law gives him the power to decide on prosecuting crimes in his district and he stands “ready willing and able to fulfill my statutory obligations.”

Wednesday’s court hearing on the video will consider petitions to release the footage, including filings by a media coalition and by the county attorney on behalf of the sheriff. A North Carolina law that took effect in 2016 allows law enforcement agencies to show body camera video privately to a victim’s family, but it generally requires a court to approve any public release.

It’s not clear how soon a judge could rule or how quickly the video would be released if the release is approved. In similar cases, it has sometimes taken weeks for the full legal process to play out.

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