PASQUOTANK COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of the seven deputies who were originally placed on administrative leave after Andrew Brown Jr. was fatally shot by deputies last week in Elizabeth City.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten said he released the names after promising transparency. It comes a day after a judge blocked the public release of the video, saying one reason was to protect the identities of the deputies. The judge also said deputies’ faces would need to blurred in the footage before Brown’s immediate family could view the footage.
In a statement Thursday, Wooten said “it’s obvious” four deputies never fired their weapons and they have been reinstated.
They are Lt. Steven Judd, Sgt. Michael Swindell, Sgt. Kenneth Bishop and Sgt. Joel Lunford. Bishop and Swindell have been with the sheriff’s office for about 10 years each. Judd started in 2007 and Lunsford started in 2017.
Three others who Wooten says did fire their weapons are still on leave pending the investigation into the incident.
They are Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Sheriff II Robert Morgan and Corporal Aaron Lewellyn. Lewellyn has been the sheriff’s office just over two years, while Morgan and Meads have been there over five years each.
“After reviewing the preliminary conclusions of the independent investigators conducting the internal review, and after carefully examining the body camera footage of the incident with my own staff, it’s obvious that four of the deputies never fired their weapons and deserve to be reinstated to active duty,” Wooten said in a release Thursday. “More investigation is necessary into the three deputies who did fire their weapons and they will remain on administrative leave pending completion of the internal investigation and/or the criminal investigation being conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation.”
Wooten has asked for the release of bodycam footage of the fatal shooting, which was delayed from public release for at least 30 days on Wednesday by a judge.
“Our county is united behind the importance of doing a careful, serious, and impartial review of everything that happened,” Wooten concluded. “Some people want a rush to judgment and others want to pit people against each other in a way that can only hurt our county. My job is to ensure transparency and accountability, while also preserving the ability for the independent investigators to do their deliberate, painstaking, and vital work,” Wooten said.
An independent autopsy released this week showed Brown died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head. His family, who viewed one 20-second bodycam video earlier this week, says Brown’s death was an execution. The judge has allowed for the family to review the rest of the bodycam footage within 10 days.
The district attorney in the case, Andrew Womble, claims that bodycam footage shows Brown’s car make contact with deputies before the shooting started. His family believes that’s not the case and that he was driving away because he feared for his life. No deputies were injured in the incident.
In arguing for a delay in the release of bodycam footage, Womble argued that release would prevent a fair trial and interfere with the investigation.
Though the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the investigation, and local authorities have said releasing the footage wouldn’t hinder their probe.
2 other members of the force resigned after the incident, Deputy Sheriff II William Harris, and Lt. Christopher Terry. Both were with the sheriff’s office since 2009.
Deputy III James Flowers, who started with the sheriff’s office in August of 2000, chose to retire early.