Public Safety

Attorney General Cooper on Kerrick Trial: We as a State Need to Learn From This Tragedy

cooperRALEIGH—State Attorney General Roy Cooper held a press conference about the decision to not retry CMPD Officer Randall ‘Wes’ Kerrick and dismiss his voluntary manslaughter charge.

A judge declared a mistrial in Kerrick’s case last Friday after jurors said they were deadlocked in an 8-4 vote, with the majority believing Kerrick was not guilty.

The CMPD officer shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell, who was unarmed, in 2013 while responding to a breaking and entering call.

“it was the right thing to bring this case before the jury and seek a conviction. But now we need to listen to what the jury said. We as a state need to learn from this tragedy. More consistent and better training for our law enforcement agents can save lives,” said Cooper.

Cooper said his office reached out to Ferrell’s family and spoke to them about the decision.

 

Proposal Advanced in NC House to Ease Death Penalty Moratorium

death_penaltyRALEIGH—A proposal has been advanced in the state House that aims to fix one obstacle which has prevented the death penalty from being carried out in North Carolina.

At issue is the American Medical Association’s ethics opinion that says a doctor cannot participate in a legally authorized execution. Under the bill, it says that a medical professional other than a doctor could monitor a lethal injection.

The bill sponsor says that would be a similar protocol to a regular visit to a doctor’s office.

“Have your physical, you find someone taking blood other than a doctor. There will be a doctor there to pronounce a person dead after the execution takes place. But that is the reason. It is really an administrative fact of inserting a needle into a vein,” said Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Johnston County Republican.

This bill now heads to the full House for consideration.

– Loretta Boniti

Legislative Panel in NC House Backs Easing NC Gun Laws

Assault Rifle-1RALEIGH — Advocates for gun rights in North Carolina are pushing to expand who can carry loaded weapons and where they can do so.

The bill does everything from allow to allow a citizen to sue if a local government restricts their gun rights, to removing some of the exemptions for whom is prohibited from carrying a concealed weapon.

A House committee reviewed and advanced the legislation Tuesday. The proposal includes the following provisions:

• Block schools from telling permitted concealed handgun owners they cannot store a weapon in their car.
• Reduce the penalty for taking guns into businesses that want to keep them out
• Allow the state agriculture commissioner to prohibit visitors to the annual State Fair from carrying guns at the fairgrounds
• Doctors could not ask about gun ownership on an intake questionnaire

“There is no medical reason for a doctor who is treating you for ingrown toenails to know whether you have weapons in your home or not,” said Rep. George Cleveland, an Onslow County Republican.

People convicted of misdemeanor crimes would become eligible again for a concealed handgun permit after three years, except for domestic violence offenders.

“So people who have been stalked, if they have been stalked five years ago, it allow those people to get a gun. That is incredibly unsafe to those victims and the public at large,” said Becky Ceartas, of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.

The same bill also ends a current ban on district attorneys carrying concealed weapons in court.

“It would remove that prohibiting language and allow them to carry in the same manner that judges and clerks of courts are allowed to carry,” said Legislative staff attorney Susan Sitze.

Bill sponsors say they believe the bill is  a good balance  protecting the rights of gun owners and preserving citizen safety.

“We do think that we have a good comprehensive piece of legislation that really does answer the concerns of making sure that we have the appropriate background checks etc. and making sure that we are doing what is necessary to protect the Second Amendment rights of our law abiding citizens,” said Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, a Mecklenburg County Republican.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

– Loretta Boniti

Legislative Panel in NC House Backs Easing NC Gun Laws

gunsRALEIGH — Advocates for gun rights in North Carolina are pushing to expand who can carry loaded weapons and where they can do so.

The bill does everything from allow to allow a citizen to sue if a local government restricts their gun rights, to removing some of the exemptions for whom is prohibited from carrying a concealed weapon.

A House committee reviewed and advanced the legislation Tuesday. The proposal includes the following provisions:

• Block schools from telling permitted concealed handgun owners they cannot store a weapon in their car.
• Reduce the penalty for taking guns into businesses that want to keep them out
• Allow the state agriculture commissioner to prohibit visitors to the annual State Fair from carrying guns at the fairgrounds
• Doctors could not ask about gun ownership on an intake questionnaire

“There is no medical reason for a doctor who is treating you for ingrown toenails to know whether you have weapons in your home or not,” said Rep. George Cleveland, an Onslow County Republican.

People convicted of misdemeanor crimes would become eligible again for a concealed handgun permit after three years, except for domestic violence offenders.

“So people who have been stalked, if they have been stalked five years ago, it allow those people to get a gun. That is incredibly unsafe to those victims and the public at large,” said Becky Ceartas, of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.

The same bill also ends a current ban on district attorneys carrying concealed weapons in court.

“It would remove that prohibiting language and allow them to carry in the same manner that judges and clerks of courts are allowed to carry,” said Legislative staff attorney Susan Sitze.

Bill sponsors say they believe the bill is  a good balance  protecting the rights of gun owners and preserving citizen safety.

“We do think that we have a good comprehensive piece of legislation that really does answer the concerns of making sure that we have the appropriate background checks etc. and making sure that we are doing what is necessary to protect the second amendment rights of our law abiding citizens,” said Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, a Mecklenburg County Republican.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

– Loretta Boniti

Bill Advances That Increases Penalty for Student Assault On a Teacher

High_School_ClassroomRALEIGH–A bill has been advanced that would make it a felony for students 16 years of age or older to assault a teacher.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jerry Tillman, said the proposal is to get people’s attention that this is a serious offense and that it happens too often. Last year, about 1,300 reports were filed of attacks on teachers.

Some believe a felony charge is too severe for a student because it would remain with them throughout their lifetime. But the bill sponsor says students will be aware of the consequences.

“It will be a very serious offense and I think that it will be well known – that parents and students will be well informed about this new law if it passes. And none of us want teachers under attack and that’s why I am doing it, “said Sen. Tillman.

Currently, a student assault on a teacher is a misdemeanor and can be upgraded to a felony if there is bodily harm.

NC Lawmakers Propose Requirement for Law Enforcement Body Cameras

police_body_cameraRALEIGH—Some state lawmakers are looking to make it mandatory that law enforcement officers wear body cameras on the job.

The most recent headline of an officer killing an unarmed man in South Carolina, adds to a growing list of police shootings that have been scrutinized nationally.

The proposal is aimed creating more transparency and accountability with deaths of unarmed suspects at the hands of law enforcement officers. As debates have been ongoing about conduct and accountability, some lawmakers in North Carolina are working to create a way to take some questions out of the investigation.

A state House proposal would require that law enforcement officers wear and activate body cameras during most interactions with the public.

Bill sponsors say this is not meant to indicate that law enforcement officers are doing anything wrong in North Carolina, but he said perception of openness to the public is important.

“But the majority of our police and law enforcement officers are waking up every day doing an incredible job protecting us. And it is unfortunate that sometimes when these things happen that we kind of focus on the negative. So the body camera bill is not a way to punish police officers in no way. It is a way to strengthen the relationship between the community and the law enforcement,” said Rep. Cecil Brockman, a Guilford County Democrat.

The NC Sheriffs’ Association has come forward to say they have concerns with the legislation. They point out that no other equipment used by law enforcement is legislated and say there are many other variables they believe should be studied before this is mandated.

– Loretta Boniti

NC Lawmakers Hope to Raise Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction

prisoners_prison_fenceRALEIGH—A handful of state lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation Tuesday to “raise the age” of juvenile jurisdiction, an issue that’s gotten more attention in recent years.

North Carolina is currently one of two states that automatically prosecutes 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds as adults. The proposal would change that so when it comes to misdemeanor offenses, the offenders would be handled in the juvenile system.

An organization called NC Child is standing behind the legislation. It says under current law, offenders at the age of 16 and 17 can be prosecuted as adults even for low-level offenses like stealing a bag of chips.

Representatives with the organization believes the legislation would have a big impact statewide—from making communities safer, to saving taxpayers money, and ultimately improving the outcomes for children.

Lawmakers from both political parties are standing behind thi, including a retired New Bern police chief.

New Legislation Aims to Eliminate Discriminatory Profiling

RALEIGH — Members of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus filed in after Representative Rodney Moore Monday afternoon to support his new bill.

“We must do all that we can to make sure we have well-trained officers that understand the mission to protect and serve not just for some interests or some segments in our community, but for all segments of our communities,” said Rep. Moore.

The bill aims to eliminate discriminatory profiling by police officers through mandatory training.

It also calls for the creation of more citizen review boards across the state in order to investigate complaints made against the police.

“We need legislation like this to hold the police accountable. But it is scary right now,” said Jaymes Powell, a supporter of the bill. “It is scary in this state right now to be an African American because if something happens to me on the way home, I doubt anyone would be held accountable.”

The executive director for the NC Police Benevolent Association John Midgette points out it is already against the law for officers to engage in racial profiling.

He said he is in favor of more transparency, if it is done in the correct way.

“The problem is you can’t set up review boards without the same hard standards that officers themselves have to prescribe to. Therefore, you want something that is not a vigilante type board, but one that is rooted in the rule of law,” Midgette said.

He said he understands emotions are high now across the country, but thinks more work needs to be done on the bill before it becomes state law.

“The fact is there is not a wholesale, race based profiling by police against minorities,” Midgette said. “That is not happening in this country. The fact the perception is there opens the door for dialogue to see what we can do better to better represent and protect our citizens.”

Doing better when it comes to representation and protection is something both sides of the issue agree on.

“We owe it to the citizens of our state as elected officials, law enforcement officials and people of goodwill to do all we can to eradicate this problem,” Moore said.

– Amy Elliott

CMPD Chief Monroe on Police Shootings: “How do we get through these?”

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe is weighing in on race relations and police departments.

He appeared on the CBS Evening News Thursday, the same day one of his officers appeared in court for shooting and killing an unarmed black man.

Randall Kerrick is on unpaid administrative leave, charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of Jonathan Ferrell.

The hearing was very quick, pretty uneventful, file a few documents and schedule another court date.

But it’s timely as protests across the country continue in the wake of no indictment of officers in Ferguson or New York.

The case against Randall Kerrick is a little different, but he was greeted by protestors shouting “no justice, no peace” as he left court Thursday afternoon.

Unlike the officer who killed Michael Brown or Eric Garner, Kerrick was indicted by a grand jury and will now stand trial for voluntary manslaughter.

He shot and killed 24-year old Jonathan Ferrell in September of 2013.

He said he was following his police training. The department called the 12 shots, 10 of them hitting Ferrell, excessive.

CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe held a news conference just hours after the shooting, announcing the charge.

He appeared on the CBS Evening News Thursday night, with three other chiefs, to discuss race relations.

When asked if he thought if the Garner case was excessive force, Chief Monroe called it unfortunate.

“I think it’s an issue and incident occurring in different ways and different places across the country and that’s what people are really struggling with, how do we get through these incidents,” Monroe says.

And as questions of excessive force by police officers continue across the country, another CMPD officer is scheduled to be in court Friday.

Jason Van Aken is charged with assault and battery, and assault inflicting serious injury.

Investigators say he broke a man’s collarbone who was handcuffed and in custody.

– Kate Gaier

Gun Group Files for Temporary Restraining Order Over Gun Ban at State Fair

RALEIGH — Last week’s announcement that guns aren’t allowed at the state fair has sparked a lot of debate. And now it’s sparked legal action by the group Grass Roots North Carolina.

“We’ve consulted many lawyers and none of them can find any grey area. The fact is the statutes stipulate very clearly which areas of state property guns can be prohibited on and the fairgrounds are not one of them,” said Grass Roots North Carolina President Paul Valone.

At issue is House Bill 937, which went into effect last year and allows those with concealed carry permits to carry guns in public recreation areas. Agriculture Commisioner Steve Troxler says the law is open to interpretation and doesn’t apply to the State Fairgrounds. On Thursday, the group filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent the State Fair from restricting gun owners.

“They’ve had background checks and training and frankly, rather than being a hazard at the State Fair, concealed handgun permit holders are a resource,” said Valone.

Grass Roots North Carolina actually met with Commissioner Troxler prior to last week’s announcement. Commissioner Troxler identifies himself as a gun owner and a grandfather, but is holding firm on the ‘No Weapons Allowed’ policy.

In a statement Commissioner Troxler said, ‘We go to great lengths to provide a safe environment at the State Fair. Our efforts include a large law enforcement presence and the use of metal detectors. The Fair’s weapons policy, which has been in place for decades, also plays an important role in maintaining that safe environment.

The group filed paperwork in Superior Court on Thursday.

There is no word on when the court case will be heard.

The North Carolina State Fair starts next Thursday, Oct. 16.

– Andy Mattison