By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on April 22, 2021
Update: In a video statement on the evening of April 22, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II and Chief Deputy Daniel Fogg provided new information about the fatal April 21 shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City.
Wooten indicated that there were multiple deputies involved in the incident, stating that “our deputies attempted to serve the arrest warrant, they fired the shots, they’ve been put on administrative leave till we know the facts.”
Fogg stated that, “Some of our deputies are now receiving threats,” pointing out that making those threats is illegal.
In describing the circumstances surrounding the shooting, Fogg said, “This is an arrest warrant around felony drug charges. Mr. Brown was a convicted felon with a history of resisting arrest,” adding that “under such circumstances, there is a high risk of danger.”
“The issue will likely come down to whether our deputies had reason to believe Mr. Brown’s actions put them at risk for serious injury or death,” Fogg said.
Three agencies involved in the case of the fatal officer-involved shooting in Elizabeth City on April 21 said today that under North Carolina law, body camera footage of incident cannot be released without a court order. The shooting involved an unnamed Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Deputy, now on administrative leave, who was serving a warrant on Andrew Brown, Jr., triggering a chain of events that led to Brown’s death. At an April 21 press conference, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II said department body cameras were functioning at the time of the incident, but he was not specific about any public release.
A statement released jointly by District Attorney Andrew Womble and Pasquotank County Attorney Michael R. Cox at about 5 p.m. on April 22, said: “We know people want to see the body camera footage. It is reasonable for people to ask to see it, because such video can help provide key context about what happened in incidents like this. However, under North Carolina law, police body worn camera footage is not a public record and cannot be released to the press or public without a court order…We must follow the law and the law prohibits us from publicly releasing the body worn camera footage. The law does allow a private viewing by the family of Mr. Brown [and] we are working with their attorney to arrange that.”
A few hours earlier, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) issued a similar statement, asserting that that any release of the body-camera video from the incident can only be done so “pursuant to a court order.”
The Elizabeth City incident occurs as passions and tensions are high and the issue of policing and the African American community has risen to the top of the national political and cable TV debate. The Elizabeth City incident instantly made national news, coming only one day after the conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin for the May 2020 murder of George Floyd.
In this atmosphere, the release of body camera footage had quickly become a focal point of the aftermath of the Elizabeth City shooting.
“That footage from those body cameras needs to be released immediately, such as it has been in other cases,” declared Elizabeth City Council Member Darius Horton at a special council meeting called on April 21 in the aftermath of the shooting.
In a statement released on April 22, Raleigh-Apex NAACP President Keith Rivers said, “If the Sheriff’s department was wearing their body cameras, if the body cameras were on, that information needs to be disseminated as quickly as possible in order to make sure justice is served.”