7 N.C. Sheriff's Deputies On Leave After Fatal Shooting Of Black Man
Seven sheriff's deputies have been placed on administrative leave after Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man, was fatally shot while deputies were carrying out a search and arrest warrant on Wednesday morning in Elizabeth City, N.C. Three other deputies have resigned, the sheriff's office says, but it wasn't related to the incident.
During a press conference streamed online Friday evening, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II expressed condolences to Brown's family and pledged that if any of his deputies are found to have violated laws or policies, "they will be held accountable."
During an emergency meeting Friday afternoon, members of the Elizabeth City Council voted unanimously to formally call on officials to release body camera footage from the shooting.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper joined calls for the swift release of the body camera footage, saying that initial reports of what happened “are tragic and extremely concerning.”
"The body camera footage should be made public as quickly as possible," he said in a tweet Friday night.
Initial reports of the shooting in Elizabeth City and death of Andrew Brown, Jr. this week are tragic and extremely concerning. The body camera footage should be made public as quickly as possible and the SBI should investigate thoroughly to ensure accountability.— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) April 23, 2021
Earlier in the day, the City Council in Elizabeth City unanimously voted to send a letter to the sheriff, local prosecutor and State Bureau of Investigation demanding release of body camera footage. The measure also directed city staff to petition a local court to release the footage if the sheriff denies the council's request. Wooten has confirmed that at least one deputy was wearing an active body camera but hasn't given a timetable for releasing it.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Councilman Michael Brooks.
The council's measure isn't binding on the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office, which is a separate entity from city government. In North Carolina, a judge must generally sign off on release of body camera footage, but the law says anyone can file a petition in court seeking its release. A coalition of news outlets including The Associated Press also filed a petition Friday asking a local judge to release the footage.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that President Joe Biden is aware of Brown’s death, but that Biden would likely leave decisions over the timetable for releasing body camera footage to local authorities.
“Obviously, the loss of life is a tragedy and obviously we’re thinking of the family members and the community," Psaki said at her daily briefing.
Wooten has said deputies from his department including a tactical team were attempting to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants when Brown was shot, but he has offered few other details. Nearby Dare County had issued two arrest warrants for Brown on drug-related charges including possession with intent to sell cocaine. Brown, 42, had a criminal history dating back to the 1990s, including past drug convictions.
Recordings of scanner traffic compiled by broadcastify.com from the morning of the shooting include emergency personnel indicating that Brown was shot in the back. An eyewitness has said that deputies fired shots at Brown as he tried to drive away, and a car authorities removed from the scene appeared to have multiple bullet holes and a shattered back window.
“We are responding. Law enforcement on scene advises shots fired, need EMS,” says one woman, who refers to the address where the warrant was served.
“EMS has got one male 42 years of age, gunshot to the back. We do have viable pulse at this time,” said a male voice. Someone then said that first responders were trying to resuscitate the man.
The sheriff, district attorney and state medical examiner didn’t immediately respond to emails Friday asking for comment on the scanner traffic. The State Bureau of Investigation, which is looking into the shooting, declined to comment.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is leading the probe. Officials at the NCSBI have said that body camera footage can only be released by a court order and they directed questions to Pasquotank County officials.
Protests began on Wednesday in response to the news of Brown's death and have continued since then.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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