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North Carolina sheriff identifies deputies in fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.

Andrew J. Brown (Facebook via CNN)

(CNN) — The Pasquotank County sheriff on Thursday identified three deputies he said fired shots at Andrew Brown Jr. and four other deputies involved in the incident in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, who have returned to duty from administrative leave.

Sheriff Tommy Wooten said in a news release that he looked at body camera footage and other evidence.

“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,” he said.

Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Sheriff II Robert Morgan and Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn are the deputies on leave, the sheriff said.

According to the release, Lt. Steven Judd, Sgt. Michael Swindell, Sgt. Kenneth Bishop, and Sgt. Joel Lunsford have returned to active duty.

Brown, 42, was fatally shot when Pasquotank County deputies were trying to execute a warrant, officials said. Protesters and family members have called for the release of body camera footage to determine what led to the shooting that came amid national conversations over policing and racial bias.

According to the arrest warrant, issued on April 20 and obtained by CNN on Thursday, Brown “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously did possess with the intent to sell and deliver a controlled substance, namely approximately three grams of cocaine.”

The sheriff’s office in nearby Dare County was seeking Brown’s arrest, according to the document.

Family and DA offer different accounts of his car’s movements

Brown’s family and the district attorney for the region offered different accounts Wednesday as to what led to the fatal shooting.

The family and their attorneys have been allowed to see some of the deputies’ bodycam footage and a judge ruled Wednesday the family can view more of them, but Judge Jeff Foster denied media requests to make the videos public for at least 30 days.

District Attorney Andrew Womble, the district attorney for the district that includes the county, said officers fired when the car Brown was driving moved toward them. Brown’s family and attorneys, who had watched 20 seconds of video earlier this week, said he was driving away to save his life from gunfire.

Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee said he saw his father driving away from the deputies, not toward them. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, one of the family attorneys, said the video showed an “execution,” in which deputies shot at Brown as he sat in his car with his hands on the wheel.

However, Womble said Wednesday that Brown’s car in the video was stationary when officers approached shouting commands. Womble said in the video, as officers attempted to open a door on the car, the vehicle backed up and made contact with an officer. He said the car then stopped before moving forward and again made contact with law enforcement. After the car moved forward, shots are heard, Womble said.

North Carolina law says body camera video is not a public record and cannot be released without a court order. A media coalition including CNN had petitioned for the footage to be publicly released.

Wooten also called for the release of the video from four body cameras associated with the shooting, and said the judge’s decision was not what he wanted.

Family and officials call for release of video

Attorneys for Brown’s family said they were deeply disappointed in the judge’s ruling.

“In this modern civil rights crisis where we see Black people killed by the police everywhere we look, video evidence is the key to discerning the truth and getting well-deserved justice for victims of senseless murders,” the team said in a statement.

Family members also responded with skepticism at the district attorney’s account of the shooting.

“This is the first time I’ve heard about it,” Brown’s cousin Elisha Villard told CNN’s Jason Carroll. “So, to me, I don’t know if they were telling the truth or not.”

Brown’s aunt Lillie Brown Clark said she’s “not buying it.” Brown is no longer able to tell the nation what happened, Clark said, making the release of the footage so much more important.

“That’s how he will speak to us. And that will be his side of the story,” she said.

In addition to Wooten, the governor of North Carolina also called for the footage to be released.

“I have continued to support a change in the law that would presume that this kind of videos are public record and a court would have to come in and find reason not to have them released to the public. Right now, the law is the opposite,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “I do know that changes need to be made to ensure fairness in the justice system and to stand up against racial injustice in North Carolina.”

Protesters calling for the release of the video have gathered for eight nights in the city.

Demonstrations have remained peaceful since Brown’s death, but the city declared a state of emergency Monday and has imposed an 8 p.m. curfew that will continue until rescinded, according to the county.

Seven people were arrested Tuesday night, the first night of the curfew, the Elizabeth City Police Department said.

On Thursday morning, Police Chief Eddie M. Buffaloe said nine people were arrested overnight in Elizabeth City. Seven of the arrests were for violating curfew and two were for impeding traffic.

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