Andrew Brown Jr. shooting: Names of deputies involved released, 4 cleared to return to work

Southeast

ELIZABETH CITY, NC – APRIL 24: Demonstrators walk in the street during a protest march on April 24, 2021 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Protestors called for the release of body camera footage from the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. on April 21. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (NewsNation Now) — A North Carolina sheriff Thursday released the names of the deputies involved in the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. and cleared four of them to return to work after a review of body camera video determined they did not fire their weapons.

Brown, a 42-year-old Black man from Elizabeth City, was shot to death by one or more deputy sheriffs trying to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants. An eyewitness said Brown tried to drive away but was shot dead in his car. 

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten announced in a news release that he has restored to duty four out of the seven deputies who were placed on administrative leave after the shooting death of Brown. He said the three deputies who fired their weapons will remain on leave until an investigation is completed.

Wooten said he’s releasing the names after promising transparency. The four deputies back on active duty are: Lt. Steven Judd, Sgt. Michael Swindell, Sgt. Kenneth Bishop and Sgt. Joel Lunford. 

The three deputies still on administrative leave are Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Sheriff II Robert Morgan and Corporal Aaron Lewellyn. Lewellyn has been in the sheriff’s office for over two years, while Morgan and Meads have been there for 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. 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.”

Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten

The shooting has prompted protests and demands for accountability in the eastern North Carolina city of about 18,000. Elizabeth City set a curfew beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday and continuing through Thursday.

A judge Wednesday denied requests to release body camera footage of the shooting publicly. However, he said, videos from multiple body cameras and one dashboard camera must be disclosed to Brown’s family and an attorney within 10 days. He said some portions of the video might be blurred or redacted, including conversations between officers. The family previously saw only a 20-second portion of one body camera video.

Attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter saw the footage and said in the bodycam footage Brown did not appear to be a threat to officers as he backed his vehicle out of his driveway and tried to drive away from deputies with guns drawn.

An independent pathologist hired by Brown’s family examined his body, according to family lawyers. Two shots to Brown’s right arm penetrated the skin and two other shots to the arm grazed him, attorney Wayne Kendall said. The pathologist could not determine the distance from which they were fired. Brown was shot in the back of the head in what lawyers called a “kill shot.”

The state’s autopsy has not been released yet. The Brown family’s lawyers also released a copy of the death certificate, which lists the cause of death as a “penetrating gunshot wound of the head.” It describes the death as a homicide. The FBI also announced Tuesday that it’s launching a federal civil rights investigation into the case.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WAVY contributed to this report.

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