Sheriff deputies shot and killed Andrew Brown, Jr., in Elizabeth City, N.C., last week. One of their bodycams captured the shooting, but Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster blocked the full release of the video for at least a month.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten, who oversees the deputies who killed Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, told All Things Considered that he thinks releasing the video now will help people trust law enforcement
"More than what the video shows is that we're going to put it out," Wooten said on Friday. "And at the end of the day, if any of the deputies made a mistake, or if they broke any law or violated any of our policies, they will be held accountable."
In his order, Foster said the release of the footage now could compromise the investigation, but Wooten has gotten different guidance at the state level.
"I spoke with the State Bureau of Investigation who is actually doing the criminal investigation," Wooten said. "They advised me that they were good with the video being released."
The night of the shooting, seven officers were carrying out search and arrest warrants at Brown's home in Elizabeth City on a nonviolent drug warrant. He was fatally shot in the back of his head, per an autopsy report. After the Brown family watched the portion of the video they were allowed to see, they described the shooting as an "execution."
Wooten disagreed with this description.
"Execution is definitely an inflammatory word," he said. "I felt like that word is being used to really inflame the protesters in the crowds, and I do not believe that this was an execution at all."
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
On why the department sent seven officers to serve Brown
Every operation we take all information that we can get, whether it's the warrant, what the charges are. The person's history is looked into. The area they live in is looked into, and the search warrant is put out with that type of information. With the evidence that we had or the data that we had in the history in the criminal record of Mr. Brown — that was the decision made.
On how that night went wrong
How it goes wrong? Law enforcement, when you go call to call, as you can imagine, is so unpredictable and it's very difficult for anybody, much less law enforcement when you have to react in a fraction of a second. So it's hard to give you an exact answer on that and be very specific. It's just so unpredictable is the word I can think of.
On the completed preliminary investigation
I can tell you that a preliminary investigation is done, which you know. They still have some more to do. We have four of the deputies back on the job. There were seven on administrative leave, as you know. What I was going to say is just to ask for everybody to please, please, please have as much patience as possible, you know, so that the State Bureau of Investigation can complete the full investigation in its entirety. Because at the end of the day, it's so hard with the crisis that's sweeping the nation that we're dealing with it. We didn't want it to, but unfortunately, it hit right here in little old Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and you cannot rush these investigations. There has to be a very credible and accountable and transparent investigation in order to have true justice.