The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s office has released the names of the seven deputies who were placed on administrative leave in the aftermath of Andrew Brown Jr.’s shooting earlier this month, revealing that three of the officers opened fire.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said Thursday that three of the seven officers—Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Sheriff II Robert Morgan, and Corp. Aaron Lewellyn—fired their weapons while serving a search and arrest warrant at Brown’s Elizabeth City home. The 42-year-old Black man died after being shot by police five times, an independent autopsy shows.
“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 said of the officers.
The four other deputies—Lt. Steve Judd; Sgt. Michael Swindell; Sgt. Kendall Bishop; and Sgt. Joel Lunsford—have been cleared after a follow-up investigation determined they did not fire their weapons and “and deserve to be reinstated to active duty,” he added.
Brown’s death spurred nationwide outrage, and his family, after viewing a 20-second video of the encounter, has called the shooting an “execution.”
“I promised the citizens of this county I would be transparent and accountable in this matter. I have been,” Wooten said. “I asked the court to make the body camera footage public. I insisted on outside investigations to ensure impartiality. And now I’m releasing the names of the deputies on the scene. I’ll continue to be transparent whenever I can—without interfering in the independent investigations.”
A judge on Thursday ruled to delay the public release of body-camera footage from the incident for at least 30 days, despite outcry from Brown’s family and the community for transparency and justice.
The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, was shot at around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday while deputies were serving a search warrant and arrest warrant in the 400 block of Perry Street in Elizabeth City for felony drug charges.
The Brown family’s attorneys insist that his hands were on his steering wheel when authorities opened fire. Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble said during a Wednesday hearing that videos of the incident show Brown’s car moved and “made contact with law enforcement” twice before deputies began shooting.
An independent autopsy commissioned by the family’s lawyers that was released Monday concluded Brown was shot at least five times while he was inside his car—including one “kill shot to the back of the head” while his hands were on the steering wheel. Brown also sustained four bullet wounds to his right arm, while the fatal shot penetrated his brain and skull and never exited his head, the report states.
“There’s too much violence. Yesterday, I said he was executed. This autopsy report shows me that was correct,” Brown’s son, Khalil Ferebee, said Tuesday. “The gunshots to the arm, is that not enough? Stuff gotta change for real.”
The FBI on Tuesday announced it had opened a federal civil rights investigation into Brown’s death and will work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina “to determine whether federal laws were violated.” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also called for a special prosecutor to be appointed “to help assure the community” and Brown’s family that a “decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias.”
Wooten also revealed Thursday the identities of three officers who left the department after the incident. Deputy Sheriff II William Harris and Lt. Christopher Terry, who had been at the sheriff’s office since 2009, asked to be reassigned. Deputy III James Flowers, who started with the sheriff’s office in 2000, chose to retire early, the sheriff added.
“Our county is united behind the importance of doing a careful, serious, and impartial review of everything that happened,” Wooten added. “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.”