District Attorney Andrew Womble told reporters this week that Andrew Brown’s car made contact with deputies twice before they opened fire. These details are concerning, and open the sheriff’s office to more questions. On the day of the shooting there were no reports of officers injured. The probably less than 10 seconds of video prior to the shooting that shows this officer contact should be released.
Last Wednesday Andrew Brown was shot and killed by Pasquotank County Sheriff’s serving a felony warrant. Our small sleepy corner of North East North Carolina is now the topic of news media around the country and around the world. We didn’t ask to get famous, and certainly not this way. There is no question that critical and deadly mistakes were made, and county leaders continue to compound the problem thru an inept ability to understand the gravity of their own actions in the days immediately following the incident.
Pasquotank leaders let the crucial hour and opportunity to be transparent slip them by. This is an unrecoverable mistake. Bad news doesn’t get better with the passing of time, it only gets worse. The citizenry has already lost confidence in Sheriff Tommy Wooten II, this too is unrecoverable. This is a crisis of the county’s own making. While I want to wait for all the facts, there are already facts that are painfully evident. Law enforcement is always quick to release video and audio when officers are in the right, but slow to do so when they are in the wrong.
Last week we saw the quick turnaround of video from the Ma’Khia Bryant shooting in Columbus, Ohio. In that case city leaders wanted to make sure the public knew the officer involved was protecting the lives of two other women. In the Pasquotank shooting of Mr. Brown last week, the opposite appears true. Wooten has placed seven sworn officers on paid leave, two resigned, and one took retirement. The sheriff’s department of barely 50 sworn officers is down to 40 now, and not all of those are on patrol. All of this puts the citizenry at risk in addition to the likely devastating cash settlement the family will likely receive. Minneapolis settled a federal lawsuit and agreed to pay an unprecedented $27 million to the family of George Floyd.
I will do my best to reserve judgment here until all the facts are known, but until then I am praying for the Brown family, the citizens of Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County and yes the officers sworn to protects the same.