North Carolina Police Body Camera Videos Document Clashes with Police

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Sheriffs flex their muscles

An effort to make video from North Carolina Police body cameras more accessible to families has derailed after the sheriff’s lobby opposed the changes. As of December 1, law enforcement can no longer share footage with family members in the event of death or serious injury. Families must obtain permission from the judges, who can deny access. Advocates want faster and easier access to videos. This is the special report of The N&O.


Who can watch law enforcement videos is important. Records can clarify what happened between residents and conflicting officers.

Body camera and dash cam images do not resolve all disputes, but they do record events in often chaotic encounters.

Here are four recent and high profile examples from North Carolina. A caveat: some video footage contains disturbing content.

Death at Forsyth Prison

John Neville died of cardiac arrest and brain injury from lack of oxygen after being handcuffed face down in the Forsyth County Detention Center, The News & Observer reported. The sheriff did not disclose his death in 2019 to the public right away.

Seven months later, in July 2020, Forsyth District Attorney Jim O’Neill on that day announced manslaughter charges against a nurse and five Sheriff’s staff.

After The N&O and other media filed a petition in court, a Superior Court judge ordered the release of some video recordings of what happened inside the prison. The footage shows officers and a nurse with Neville as he emerged from what appeared to be a fit. He was both confused and uncooperative.

After moving him handcuffed in a wheelchair to a second cell, officers placed Neville face down, still handcuffed, on a mattress on the floor. They kept him there while they worked to remove those handcuffs with keys, and when that didn’t work, bolt cutters, The N&O reported. Neville begged to be knocked down, saying over 30 times that he couldn’t breathe.

Neville’s family sued the six indicted, Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough and Wellpath, a medical society affiliated with the prison when Neville died.

Andrew Brown’s murder

A month after Andrew Brown Jr. was shot and killed by Sheriff’s Deputies in Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble announced his finding that MPs were acting legally and he would not charge them .

As part of his presentation, Womble broadcast several minutes of video from body cameras recording the 44-second encounter outside Brown’s home. The video showed MPs, who had arrest warrants against Brown for allegedly selling drugs, jumping from the back of a department truck. Brown, who was unarmed, was sitting in a sedan parked in a driveway.

Rather than come out and raise his arm as the MPs ordered, Brown pressed the gas in an attempt to escape. As Brown’s car headed for an assistant, a sergeant shot the front of Brown’s car, Womble said. The deputies pulled into the back of the car as it crossed a lot.

Brown was shot in the back of the neck and in the shoulder, an autopsy was found, Womble said during his presentation. Fourteen used shell crates were found in the driveway and yard, Womble said during his presentation.

The serious threat that MPs saw as warranting the deployment of lethal force by MPs, Womble said.

Brown’s family interpreted the body camera video very differently. They allege law enforcement used excessive force when they killed Brown, and their attorneys filed a federal lawsuit seeking $ 30 million in damages.

Last month, a record in the lawsuit indicated that a department’s body camera recorded a deputy “stressful” about the number of times he shot Brown’s vehicle, the N&O reported. Brown was shot five times, the family said.

The N&O and other news outlets are still trying to publish all videos.

Guns shot at the youths of Durham

Families in Durham were outraged in August 2020 after police pointed guns at a teenager and one of two young children he was playing with on the grounds of their apartment complex. Police rushed there after a caller said a gunman was seen at the compound.

The children’s families and activists demanded that police release a video of the meeting, saying the incident was another example of police using excessive force against black residents, The N&O reported.

Police released body and security camera footage in November, after an internal investigation. It showed that at least four policemen had drawn handguns and ran after the older youth, who had been ordered to lie on the ground, handcuffed and searched. An officer briefly pointed his gun at one of the younger boys, aged 8 and 11.

The video also captures the panic of the adults who watched the episode unfold. After an internal investigation, the police department sanctioned an officer, suspending him without pay for a day.

Police grudge in Alamance

Even after a judge ruled they should, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department and Graham Police refused to give the media a video of a controversial response from the forces last summer. order to peaceful protesters in October 2020.

Hundreds of people marched from a local church to the historic downtown Graham courthouse, intending to continue to a nearby polling station. Police and MPs deployed several rounds of pepper mist over the marchers, first to force the crowds off the road after a minute’s silence for George Floyd.

In July, Judge Andrew H. Hanford said agencies could keep the video a secret while they appealed his release order to news agencies, including The N&O. The previous month, Hanford had discovered that “failure to publish the photos / recordings would undermine public confidence in the administration of justice,” reported The N&O.

But The N&O and other news outlets released a video capturing police behavior during the march which was acquired by subpoena by an accused in court. This footage documented some of Graham’s police officers responding to predominantly African-American protesters with open hostility.

An officer congratulates a sergeant, who became deputy head of the department, for being the first to deploy Pepper Mist. Another expresses his excitement as he prepares to take down “those **** mothers”.

In a written statement posted to Twitter after the video was posted, Graham Police Chief Mary K. Cole admitted officers made “unprofessional comments.” They faced tough pressures at more than 40 protests in Graham in 2020, she wrote.

“We ask the community to grant us grace on the rare occasions we fail,” she wrote.

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Cathy Clabby leads an investigative / high-impact team of McClatchy journalists based at News & Observer and Charlotte Observer.


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