Author: Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News
Amid mounting public pressure, a North Carolina sheriff said on Saturday that he wants body-camera video made public after one of his deputies shot and killed a Black man.
The man, Andrew Brown Jr., was fatally wounded on Wednesday while the authorities were executing a search warrant and an arrest warrant on drug charges in Elizabeth City, officials said.
“We want transparency,” Tommy Wooten II, the Pasquotank County sheriff, said in a videotaped statement on Saturday. He emphasized that his office did not have the power to release the body-camera footage. It has been turned over to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and can be released only by a judge, he said.
Sheriff Wooten said that he had asked the State Bureau of Investigation to confirm that releasing the video would not undermine its investigation. If that confirmation is received, the county will file a motion in court — most likely on Monday — to have the footage released, he said.
“We know people want answers,” Sheriff Wooten said. “We know you’re angry. We understand and respect that. We ask for your patience and your support as we work to do the right thing.”
The office has also asked the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association to appoint an outside sheriff’s office to conduct an internal affairs investigation of everyone involved, said Daniel Fogg, the chief deputy.
Harry Daniels, a lawyer for Mr. Brown’s family, said that based on witnesses’ statements, it appeared that Mr. Brown had been shot while driving away from sheriff’s deputies. “To my understanding, Mr. Brown was not armed, and the bullets entered into the back of the vehicle,” Mr. Daniels said on Thursday.
The Sheriff’s Office statement followed a day of emotional statements from family members, activists and lawyers pushing for accountability in Mr. Brown’s death.
“If the shooting and the killing was self-defense or proper use of force, then show the truth,” the Rev. William J. Barber II said at a news briefing on Saturday. “If it wasn’t — show the truth. But Sheriff, D.A., law enforcement, you can’t just shut up. You must speak up.”
On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said the body-camera footage should be released.
Mr. Brown’s family is in part represented by Ben Crump, the well-known civil rights lawyer who was among those representing the family of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The shooting in North Carolina took place one day after a jury had found a former police officer guilty of murder in Mr. Floyd’s death and as police violence against Black people has come under intense scrutiny across the country.
In addition to demanding the release of the body-camera footage, some community leaders also urged Sheriff Wooten to step down.
“We are not requesting — we are demanding the resignation of Sheriff Wooten,” Keith Rivers, president of the Pasquotank County branch of the N.A.A.C.P., said at a news conference on Saturday.
The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the calls for resignation, Maj. Aaron Wallio said.
Maj. Wallio confirmed on Friday that seven of the department’s 55 full-time deputies had been placed on paid administrative leave after Mr. Brown’s death.
Mr. Brown’s family was told that no drugs or weapons had been retrieved from the property or the car, Mr. Daniels, their lawyer, said on Saturday. The family is pushing to see the body-camera footage privately, he said. And the legal team has not yet seen the search warrant that officials say was being executed at the time of the shooting.
“This is a moment in time that we have to seize and take back accountability and transparency,” he said. Mr. Brown, he said, was “taken by the hands of the ones who are sworn to protect and serve.”
Michael Levenson and Christina Morales contributed reporting.