Four deputies involved in Andrew Brown Jr.’s shooting death have been returned to active duty because they didn’t fire their weapons, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said Thursday.
Wooten released the four deputies’ names and those of three other deputies who fired their weapons at Brown as the officers were serving arrest and search warrants at Brown’s residence April 21.
The four deputies who’ve been returned to active duty include Lt. Steven Judd, Sgt. Michael Swindell, Sgt. Kenneth Bishop and Sgt. Joel Lunsford.
The three deputies who did fire their weapons and remain on administrative leave include Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Sheriff 2 Robert Morgan and Cpl. Aaron Lewellyn. According to a copy of the search warrant obtained by The Daily Advance on Monday, Meads was the affiant for the search warrant deputies were attempting to serve at Brown’s residence.
“Today, I’m releasing the names of the seven deputies who I placed on administrative leave after this incident,” Wooten said in a press release. “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.”
Wooten said “more investigation will be necessary” of the three deputies who did fire their weapons. As a result, they will remain on administrative leave pending completion of the internal investigations of the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office now underway by four outside sheriff’s agencies “and/or the criminal investigation” being conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation, Wooten said.
Wooten released the deputies’ names a day after a Superior Court judge granted a petition by Brown’s son, Khalil Ferebee, for access to all footage from the body cameras worn by the deputies involved in Brown’s fatal shooting.
According to Judge Jeffrey Foster’s ruling, the Sheriff’s Office is required to disclose footage from four deputy body cameras and one dash camera to Ferebee within 10 days of his order. Foster further ruled that the footage be released to Ferebee no later than 45 days after his order. Foster also required the Sheriff’s Office to blur the faces of the deputies in the footage as well as any of their identifying badges or nameplates.
During the same hearing at the Pasquotank County Courthouse, Foster denied a petition from a consortium of media companies seeking release of the body camera footage, ruling the group didn’t have standing under the state’s body camera law to seek the footage.
In his press release, Wooten — who also filed a petition for the body camera footage’s release — said releasing the deputies’ names continued his commitment to transparency and accountability in the aftermath of Brown’s shooting death.
“I promised the citizens of this county I would be transparent and accountable in this matter. I have been,” he said. “I asked the court to make the body camera footage public. I insisted on outside investigations to ensure impartiality. And now I’m releasing the names of the deputies on the scene. I’ll continue to be transparent whenever I can — without interfering in the independent investigations.”
According to information released by Wooten’s office, Meads has been employed with the Sheriff’s Office since Sept. 21, 2015 and his current salary is $48,314. Morgan has been with the department since Dec. 5, 2016 and his current salary is $41,639. Lewellyn has been employed with the office since March 1, 2019, and his salary is $45,690.
Wooten also released the names of two deputies who have resigned and one whose retirement is pending since Brown’s shooting. Deputy Sheriff II William Harris and Lt. Christopher Terry have resigned and Deputy III James Flowers’ retirement is pending, the sheriff said.
Wooten has said Harris, Terry and Flowers were not involved in Brown’s shooting.