Mid-Atlantic Christian University canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday and is sending students home after the mayor of Elizabeth City, N.C., declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the local sheriff’s office releasing body camera footage in the shooting death last week of Andrew Brown Jr.
“Students are required to move out of the residence halls by Tuesday at noon and return home or somewhere outside of Elizabeth City,” MACU wrote on its website. “Students who . . . are unable to leave Elizabeth City by Tuesday at noon are to contact [a specific school employee] immediately to work out a solution keeping in mind everyone’s safety.”
Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, while carrying out warrants related to alleged drug possession and distribution, according to media reports. Brown’s shooting death is attracting national coverage. Demonstrations have occurred in Elizabeth City in the days since Brown’s shooting on April 21, one day after former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder in the May 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
Brown’s relatives viewed footage of the shooting Monday afternoon in advance of its release to the news media; their viewing was delayed so some faces in the video could be blurred.
In declaring the state of emergency, which commenced at 8 a.m. Monday, Mayor Bettie Parker said, “City officials realize there may potentially be a period of civil unrest within the city following the public release of that footage.”
MACU announced a unified response with two other institutions of higher education in Elizabeth City—the College of The Albemarle and Elizabeth City State University—“to keep students and faculty/staff safe.”
MACU’s campus is only a few blocks from the city offices and the Pasquotank County Courthouse. The city has more than 17,000 residents.
MACU president John Maurice was among community leaders, both Black and White, who appeared with Sheriff Tommy Wooten II in a video on Friday.
In the video, Maurice said last Wednesday was a “sad day for our community.” He said he had asked students and staff to pray for both the Brown family and law enforcement officials, and he requested others to do the same.
“We are seeking peace and calm in our community.” The investigation needs to proceed, Maurice said, “so the truth and the facts will come out and justice will be served. That is the best of America, and we believe as Elizabeth City, North Carolina, we can be the best of America. So we are pushing for justice.”
On its website, MACU said classes will be held virtually Wednesday through Friday, and that final exams will take place starting May 3, as scheduled, but they will be virtual. “We anticipate that Commencement [May 8] will be able to happen as scheduled, in Elizabeth City,” but that could change, the school wrote.
“This is an unprecedented time for Elizabeth City,” MACU wrote. “We have not made this decision lightly. But we believe that the response is necessary in an effort to keep everyone safe with so many unknowns. We trust that everyone will pray for Elizabeth City.
“There are no words to describe how this school year has unfolded. From dealing with COVID and a collapsed building”—Heritage Hall last September; no one was hurt—”to now the potential for civil unrest. We know that none of this has caught God off guard. We seek his wisdom. We rest in his comfort. We love you and there is no greater responsibility your parents have entrusted us with than your safety and well-being.”