© Reuters. Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed by police last week, poses in an undated family photo.
By Steve Gorman (Reuters) – Four North Carolina officers suspended for the shooting death of a black man while trying to serve him a search warrant have returned to duty after investigators found they never fired their guns, but three others did. if they did, they will remain in office. Go away, the sheriff said Thursday. Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten released the names of the seven deputies placed on administrative leave after the April 21 shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr., 42, in Elizabeth City, a city opposite to the river near the Virginia border. Brown’s family and their attorneys have accused officers involved in the deadly confrontation of using unnecessary deadly force against someone who did not pose a threat and was trying to flee, calling the shooting an “execution.” They cited the findings of a private autopsy showing Brown was shot four times in the arm through the front windshield of his car before turning the vehicle around and was killed by a fifth gunshot to the head while trying to escape. The shooting, which sparked a week of protests, came a day after a Minneapolis jury handed down a murder conviction in the closely watched trial of the former white police officer who killed George Floyd, a black man, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 10 minutes. . At a court hearing Wednesday in the city of Elizabeth, District Attorney Andrew Womble questioned the Brown family’s account of the shooting. Womble said police video shows officers circling Brown’s car and the vehicle backing up twice after one officer tried to open a car door while others yelled at Brown to stop. Womble said officers opened fire when Brown’s car lurched forward and made “contact” with them. Attorneys for Brown’s family, along with Wooten and the media, have urged state investigators to release video footage captured by officers’ body cameras and dash cameras. But a judge on Wednesday denied requests for immediate public release of the video, while ordering investigators to allow Brown’s son, Khalil Ferebee, to view the images within 10 days. Previously, family members were only shown a 20-second clip. Wooten said Wednesday he was “disappointed” by the ruling. But on Thursday it issued a new statement saying that the video review by investigators showed that “four of the officers never fired their weapons and deserve to be reinstated to active duty.” “More investigation is needed on the three officers who fired their guns and will remain on administrative leave until the completion” of an ongoing criminal investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation, Wooten said. The three officers who remain suspended are Rep. Robert Morgan, Corporal Aaron Levelly and Sheriff’s Investigator Daniel Meads, who signed the affidavit accompanying the search warrant that led to Brown’s death. According to that affidavit, posted online by the sheriff, Brown was known to local police as a drug dealer suspected of being a source of crack, heroin and methamphetamine in and around Elizabeth City. Narcotics investigators had made two “controlled” purchases of Brown’s drugs by a confidential informant in March and obtained a search warrant for his home and cars seeking additional evidence of drug trafficking operations, according to the affidavit. . (This story corrects the date of the Andrew Brown shooting to April 21)