ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — Protests are taking place for the third straight day after Andrew Brown was killed by law enforcement during the execution of a search warrant Wednesday in Elizabeth City.
Protesters were demanding the release of body camera footage of the incident. Witnesses say Brown was shot as he was driving away.
Protesters spent Friday afternoon and evening peacefully gathering and marching through the streets, including on Ehringhaus Street, a major roadway in town, to demand transparency.
“They know if they were in the right, they would have released it,” said one protester about the body camera video.
Jahrod Ferbee, 24, one of Andrew Brown’s sons, was also in Elizabeth City Friday. He said he’s “going through a lot right now.” He didn’t want to answer questions.
People from out of town also arrived to protest Friday evening. One man selling T-shirts said he was from Philadelphia.
The crowd marched to the waterfront by 6 p.m., where prayers were said and balloons were released in Brown’s honor.
Marchers then shut down the bridge leading into Camden County. Activists told WAVY News 10’s Brett Hall that one of the reasons they chose to stop at the bridge is because on Friday night, so many people use the bridge to get to the Outer Banks. The Camden County Sheriff’s Office said traffic headed west was backed up several miles as of 7 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper also called for the release of the footage.
Activists read Cooper’s statement aloud during the demonstration Friday and were met with clapping.
Some said “this is what we do this for.”
By 10 p.m., most protesters had dispersed from the area.
Organizers say they will continue to march until they get the transparency the sheriff has promised. They plan to meet at the sheriff’s office at 5 p.m. Saturday.
WAVY News 10 will have more details as protests continue Friday night. Check in with reporter Brett Hall on Twitter.
Deputies on leave
For the last couple days, many in the Elizabeth City community have been wondering where Pasquotank Sheriff Tommy Wooten has been. Some are demanding to hear more from him.
“We ask that he come to speak to us and come and let us know what’s going on,” resident Kirk Rivers said.
On Friday, Wooten told 10 On Your Side seven deputies are on administrative leave following the shooting.
Another three deputies have resigned since Wednesday, he added. One of them was nearing retirement. Those three deputies were not directly involved in the shooting.
“I’m working tirelessly to make sure this sheriff’s office stays afloat,” Wooten added. “We have other sheriff’s offices coming in and rotating shifts with my people.”
The sheriff said the body camera video could be released within the next couple days, WAVY’s Jason Marks reports. He said he’s beginning the process to release it.
The release of the body camera footage requires a court order, under North Carolina law.
10 On Your Side asked him if he is hearing the calls of the protesters.
“Just to let the people know that 100%, I hear you,” Wooten said.
The body camera footage continues to be the focus and Wooten knows it.
“People want the body cam footage right now,” Wooten said. “We are the custodian of the body cam footage, but the district attorney does not want it released at this time.”
Friday afternoon, Wooten also met with Brown’s family to give them an update on the case.
“The Brown family is not going to have to wait much longer,” Wooten said. “Their wishes will be granted.”
City Council votes to petition for shooting footage
The Elizabeth City council members also held an emergency meeting starting at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
City Council voted unanimously during the meeting to petition the Pasquotank County sheriff to release the body camera video. If the request is denied, the city attorney is directed to go to a superior court to request an order for release.
WAVY has also joined a media coalition to petition the court in Pasquotank to release the video.
The meeting was off to a contentious start after Councilman Darius Horton didn’t ask Mayor Bettie Parker and others if Brown’s family members could come in. Currently, council chambers are closed to the public because of COVID-19.
BELOW: Watch the full Elizabeth City meeting from Friday.
The city attorney said during the meeting that he doesn’t think the city has much standing to legally request the release of body camera video, but Horton moved to do it anyway to “send a message.”
Mayor Bettie Parker gave her first public statement since the shooting around 5 p.m., after Friday’s emergency meeting. She said she will giving more information at a press conference with the city manager and Elizabeth City police chief Saturday at 11 a.m.
She thanked protesters for being peaceful.
Sheriff holds press conference
On Friday night, Wooten, the Pasquotank sheriff, also held a Facebook live press conference. He was joined by local faith leaders, who expressed support that the sheriff will ensure justice comes out of the situation.
The sheriff reiterated that if it’s determined his deputies broke the law or policies, they will be held accountable.
“And again, because it’s what the citizens expect of me … and it’s the right thing to do,” Wooten said.
The Facebook live was abruptly cut off after technical issues throughout the stream.
Protesters earlier Friday blocked off Ehringhaus Street, a major roadway in town, to demand transparency.