A sheriff in North Carolina asking a judge to approve the release of body camera footage of the deputy-involved shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City, N.C., told Fox News on Tuesday that he would support a new law to get video out sooner – stressing transparency is important as protests have persisted across the community for one week straight.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II said in an exclusive interview that he doesn’t doubt that the body camera footage will be released to the public through the current court system. He also denied accusations made by the family’s attorneys and activists that authorities were covering up anything.
“I truly want this video to be released. I, in fact, requested that the petition be filed to have this video released to the public,” the sheriff told Fox News’ Griff Jenkins. “Transparency is paramount not only for an agency, but for the community as well, because it helps us keep that trust with the community.”
“No one has to worry about the sheriff’s office trying to hide anything,” Wooten continued. “We’re just not going to do that, you know, period.
The sheriff said that any suggestion his office is intentionally withholding any part of the video is “completely not true.”
A hearing about the footage is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. at the Pasquotank County Courthouse where Superior Court Judge Jeffery Foster will consider filings by a media coalition and by Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox on behalf of the sheriff.
Wooten said his deputies are very distraught over what happened and for the family of Brown.
“You know, there’s been crying,” Wooten said, describing morale at the sheriff’s office. “There’s been just huge amounts of condolences, not for themselves, but for the Brown family… I don’t know of any law enforcement, you know, that gets up in the morning and thinks this is going to happen to them. In Elizabeth City, North Carolina, unfortunately, that did happen to happen to the Brown family and it happened to law enforcement. And they are, they’re devastated.”
Though Wooten is proud of his deputies, he said they are held to a higher standard and accountability is crucial.
“I love every deputy that works here, and I support them 100%. With that being said, at the sheriff’s office, we have a higher standard, a higher standard of accountability, and they know that and they know that,” Wooten said. “Whatever situation arises and how they take action in the moment that they will be held accountable.”
Elizabeth City Police closed roads in the downtown area at 8:20 a.m. ET until further notice.
Approximately 50 protesters remained on the streets downtown Tuesday past the 8 p.m. curfew. Police gave repeated warnings of an unlawful assembly, and the department said on its Twitter page the final warning was given at 10 p.m. and arrests would be made at that time. Seven people were arrested.
“It’s kind of something that we expected,” Wooten said, referring to the arrests. “I will say that there was an eight o’clock curfew put in by the city and the county. The city did a fabulous job. They did a fabulous job. No one was hurt. There was no fights and everything was peaceful.”
The sheriff said he also supported a change in North Carolina law to allow body camera footage to be released sooner in police-involved shootings. A North Carolina law that took effect in 2016 allows law enforcement agencies to show body camera video privately to a victim’s family – which is how the Brown family was shown 20 seconds Monday. However, for a wider public release, it generally requires a court to approve the petition.
“I would absolutely support a law to change the procedures in which we have to follow to release body cam footage in going through this tragic incident,” Wooten said. “That’s one of the things that was immediately apparent to me, that this needs to be out faster. If we’re going to continue to have that community trust, we have to have transparency and accountability will follow.”