From Typographical error, procedural delay, mar criminal case against security guard accused of assaults.
Typographical error, procedural delay, mar criminal case against security guard accused of assaults.
Surveillance video from the night of July 2, 2008 shows Lankford Protective Services Lt. Byron Wayne Meadows striding briskly behind 22-year-old Russell Kilfoil past the double doors that open from the waiting area inside the Greensboro transit hub onto the sprawling shed where buses idled as the drivers prepared for the final run of the night.
As they near Slip 13, Kilfoil turns with his arms at his side, craning his head forward. The video is silent, so it’s hard to tell whether the young man says anything, but Meadows soon makes a move on Kilfoil, grabbing at his collar area and knocking him off balance, causing him to fall out of the camera’s frame.
Kilfoil has said Meadows confronted him because the security guard thought he had ignored an order to move to a designated area to smoke a cigarette.
“He grabbed me, punched me in my head,” Kilfoil would later write in an affidavit. “I tried to get away from him, but he kept hold of my shirt and my religious necklace I was wearing, ripped my shirt, broke the necklace and held me contained by my arms, put me to the floor with his foot to my back.” Meadows describes the incident differently in a written statement cited in a Greensboro Human Relations Department report, contending that he was anticipating an attack from Kilfoil and that “in order to deescalate the situation, I reached for Kilfoil’s right wrist with my right arm in a self-defense mechanism called the arm bar, causing him to slightly lose his balance.”
Human relations administrator Yamile Nazar Walker rejected Meadows’ version of events. “Kilfoil takes a step back when Meadows lunges towards him and strikes with his right fist and forearm across his head, face and neck,” she wrote. “The video evidence is irrefutable in its record of the event, displaying that if Meadows reached for Kilfoil’s right wrist with his right arm, his movements would have been waist high and crossing the front of Kilfoil’s body, not up in the head, face and neck area.” Walker concluded that Meadows, who is white, violated the city’s public accommodation ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, when he allegedly assaulted Kilfoil, who is Hispanic.
Three days after Kilfoil’s run-in with Meadows, a 39year-old GTCC student named Hiram Gardner reported that he, too, was assaulted by Meadows at the transit hub. Gardner said he had left the Depot to get something to eat at a restaurant owned by some friends on South Elm Street, and then returned to wait for his bus. He was sitting on one of the benches inside talking on his cell phone to a friend when, Gardner alleges, Meadows dove at him, grabbed his neck and slammed him on the bench. Gardner called the police and an officer was dispatched to take his report.
“I had to ask myself: ‘Why did this man do this?’” Gardner said recently. “You go through the checklist. People stereotype, but I don’t look threatening.
I’m not a really big guy. I don’t carry myself in such a way that people would be threatened. So it’s obvious to me that this man has racial problems. And he uses his influence downtown to get away with it.” A Dean’s list student at GTCC and a volunteer basketball coach for a local program that provides mentorship to young men, Gardner had said he was not inclined to let the incident go, although he would ultimately abandon the case. The cases would seem to be cut and dried: Two alleged assaults against Greensboro transit riders — one of them caught on video and the other described in a police report — warrants taken out for the suspect’s arrest, trials and an eventual determination of guilt or innocence. Yet the wheels of justice have moved creakily for Kilfoil and Gardner.
From the start, the two cases have been hobbled by runaround, typographical error, processing delay, missed opportunities to secure evidence and an apparent lack of enthusiasm for arresting a suspect and prosecuting the defendant for the alleged crimes.
Details in the human relations report suggest that Meadows was eager to sweep the incident under the rug. Surveillance video shows the security guard leading a handcuffed Kilfoil into his office, but the human relations report found that no incident report was filed to document the incident, as required by city policy.
Once the breach came to light, Meadows was reduced from full-time to part- time at the transit hub. Michael Speedling, who oversees the security contract for the city, said the disciplinary action was taken at his order.
Kilfoil described Meadows in his interview during the human relations investigation as “seeming surprised when he was able to speak English.” The young man told Walker he wanted Meadows to see him as a “human being who could speak English.”
During his detention, Kilfoil attempted to obtain his captors’ names so he could take appropriate action later. Kilfoil and Officer Omar Mahoney, who was working at the transit hub at the time of the alleged assault, both told Walker that when Kilfoil tried to write down Mahoney’s name, Meadows told him to throw the paper away. Meadows also looked up some records on the computer inside the security office and learned that Kilfoil was a member of the Latin Kings, an organization whose members prefer the longer and more ceremonial moniker the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation.
Kilfoil was arrested at an Italian restaurant where he worked as a cook in early November on a felony charge of abducting children. He said he was fired from the job a week before Christmas, possibly because of the arrest. The felony charge was subsequently dismissed by the District Attorney’s office, but Kilfoil still faces a misdemeanor charge of contributing the delinquency of a juvenile. The story of the Latin Kings in Greensboro has taken many bizarre turns over the past seven months, but the essential elements of the narrative include their much-publicized effort to secure a peace agreement among street organizations and a near-obsessive campaign by the Greensboro Police Department to suppress them. Kevin McIntyre, another security guard interviewed by Walker, said he watched Kilfoil walk away from the Depot. Neither spoke. Later, McIntyre reportedly asked Meadows what had transpired.
McIntyre described Meadows in his interview with Walker as placing his fingers to his lips and saying, ‘Shhh….” Within two days of each other Kilfoil and Gardner took out warrants for Meadows’ arrest. Kilfoil said he was initially told by a magistrate that he could not take out a warrant because Meadows was a police officer, while Gardner said he was told that any warrant against a police officer or private security guard must be handled by the District Attorney’s office. Neither can recall the name of the magistrate who gave them the erroneous information. Both demonstrated persistence and returned to the Guilford County Magistrate’s office, and took out warrants against Meadows.
Guilford Chief Magistrate Judge Charles Lucas characterized Kilfoil and Gardner’s allegations as “hearsay” in an interview last week. A city gradually creeping up to the quarter-million mark in population, Greensboro can still operate like a small town in many ways despite an influx of Yankees taking advantage of cheap real estate and low taxes, despite Latinos gradually establishing themselves and despite a steady trickle of refugees expanding their respective enclaves.
Personal relationships matter in all strata of the society. Gardner said he suspects that Meadows has worked professional ties in the criminal justice system to his advantage.
And he readily admitted to connections of his own that seemed to help oil the gears of justice. For instance, he said he plays basketball with the brother of the police officer who came out to the Depot to take his report. And when he returned to the Magistrate’s office after his sidetrack to the District Attorney’s office, it was Magistrate Carleen Jenkins, who graduated from Dudley High School a couple years ahead of Gardner, who agreed to take out the warrant for him. Meadows’ roots in Greensboro do not go as deep as Gardner’s. A daughter’s birth certificate indicates that Meadows was born in West Virginia, and other court records show that only a few years out of high school he married a young woman there.
The first marriage fell apart after seven years, and the mid-1980s found him working as a construction foreman in Galveston, Texas. After fathering a second daughter, court documents state that Meadows ended his relationship with his second wife in 1992. By the time he filed for divorce in 1998, he was living in Guilford County.
Meadows went to work for the Gibsonville Police Department in 2003, and resigned in 2006. The Greensboro human relations report indicates that Meadows was suspended from the Gibsonville Police Department for an alleged assault on a woman. The report states, “Although Meadows was cleared of charges and offered reinstatement, he declined.”
Gardner’s warrant against Meadows was served on July 23, nearly two weeks after it was issued. The warrant taken out by Kilfoil did not go so smoothly. Issued on July 8, it would not be served until two days before Christmas. Kilfoil’s Affidavit for Criminal Charges identifies the suspect as “BW Meadows.” That was the name signed to a handwritten order received from the security guard that informed him he was banned from the Depot for30 days, Kilfoil says. Kilfoil also provided the name of Meadows’ employer and the Greensboro address where the company is headquartered on his affidavit.
Magistrate Julia P. Jamieson inexplicably entered the defendant’s name as “Bryan Wayne Meadows,” and entered a date of birth for him that does not correspond to that in the records of the Greensboro Police Department warrant squad for Byron Wayne Meadows. Jamieson hung up on a reporter during an interview last month, and did not return a subsequent call seeking an explanation for her handling of the warrant.
Guilford County Chief Magistrate Judge Charles Lucas declined to comment on the discrepancy between the actual name of the defendant and the name entered on the warrant by Jamieson.
The paper languished with the Greensboro Police Department warrant squad for several months. On Dec. 22, Cpl. K. LaBoard said that the warrant had not been served because the name did not match that of the person located at the address for Lankford Protective Services.
That’s typical procedure, said Sgt. DJ Davis, who heads the warrant squad. If the name of the suspect were incorrect, he said, “He could possibly get out of the charge.”
A professor who teaches criminal law at Elon Law School in Greensboro disagreed. “A lot of times [magistrates] don’t know the defendant’s name, and they can use an alias,” Steven Friedland said. “I don’t think in the long run that will interfere with the prosecution.”
Sgt. Davis added that five months between the date a warrant is issued and when it is served is not uncommon. “We have thousands of papers here, and sometimes it takes months before we serve them, and sometimes we can serve them the next day,” he said, adding that “we typically don’t put a whole lot of time and energy into misdemeanors.
We prioritize felonies — serious assaults, sexual assaults, shootings and cuttings.” Davis said the identity of the victim — for example, Kilfoil’s membership in the Latin Kings, an organization considered a gang by the police — does not influence the warrant squad’s prioritization of cases. Nor, he said, does the defendant’s identity.
“If he works for the Greensboro Police Department and he has a warrant, then the warrant will get served,” Davis said. “That warrant might not get served as quickly as people want it to be served.
We’ll get to it. We’re short-staffed like everybody else in the city. We got probably a thousand pieces of paper last month.”
Magistrate Jamieson spoke to YES! Weekly about the un-served warrant, and this reporter attempted to reach Meadows on Dec. 22. That day, Meadows’ lawyer worked out an agreement with the District Attorney to reduce his client’s bond, which was signed the following day by District Court Judge Polly Sizemore. On Dec. 23, Meadows turned himself at the magistrate’s office and was released with-out bond after signing a written promise to appear that was approved by Jamieson.
On the same day, Meadows filed a No-Contact Order for Stalking or Nonconsensual Sexual Contact against YES! Weekly, alleging that a “Yes Magazine representative has contacted me 2 times about a pending court case and personal information about myself and my job. I have asked them not to contact me, and I am not at liberty to discuss this case.” A district court judge summarily threw the order out. Subsequent calls to Ken Free, one of Meadow’s lawyers, have gone unreturned.
Meadows’ arrest before Christmas came atop another unwelcome turn of events for the security guard. In mid-December, after receiving the human relations report detailing the alleged assault of Russell Kilfoil, City Manager Mitchell Johnson issued an order prohibiting Meadows from working at any city facility.
The city’s contract with Lankford Protective Services gives the city final say over which employees work on city property.
Greensboro Security Director Michael Speedling said that after Lankford took over the contract from Kimber Guard & Patrol in 2005, the city required the new company to implement a report-writing training after deficiencies were uncovered.
“We have a very professional force, and we’re making constant improvements,” Speedling said. He added that the contract requires all security guards working for the city to receive certification from the NC Private Protective Services Board in the use of expandable batons, pepper spray, unarmed self-defense and handcuffing procedures.
Lankford describes itself in its proposal for the contract as “one of the largest company police agencies” in North Carolina.
The company listed officer pay for the first year of its contract at $20,800. In additional to several other contracts, it provides security at the Guilford County Courthouse.
Engaging bus passengers and contract transit employees in a discussion about the conduct of the security guards assigned to the Depot is like entering a twilight zone of evasion, vagary, equivocation and silence.
Homeless people who depend on the kindness of the security guards to circumvent the city’s anti-loitering ordinance and find shelter from the cold even when they don’t have money for bus fare variously defend and frown upon the hired muscle.
Yamile Nazar Walker of the city’s human relations department found herself in a confrontation with Calvin Jordan, the site supervisor for the Depot who is employed by Veolia Transportation, about what she had seen on the surveillance video. The human relations investigator characterized Jordan as untruthful and “lacking in credibility.”
On a recent weekday evening, a handful of drivers milled around at Slip 13. They were taking a break before leaving on the outbound half of their routes at 10:30, which would be the penultimate run of the night. It was the same slip at which Russell Kilfoil had fallen to the pavement under the force of Byron Wayne Meadows’ arm. The sign bore a decal with a lighted cigarette circled and crossed through to indicate that smoking was prohibited.
But some of the drivers were smoking, which appeared to raise no concern among the trio of security guards patrolling the grounds. A few of the drivers nodded with a look of vague recognition when the incident involving Kilfoil was mentioned, but none acknowledged witnessing it. One driver said she was not allowed to speak to the media.
By the time Meadows was pulled off duty at city facilities, the criminal case against Meadows based on the complaint brought by Hiram Gardner was already underway.
“When I came to realize in the courtroom that the District Attorney and the state wasn’t going to do anything on my behalf, I decided to do it on my own, to subpoena witnesses and surveillance tape, because the surveillance tape will tell the whole story,” Gardner said. “Why the state hasn’t done that I don’t know. That they haven’t subpoenaed the surveillance tape is proof of negligence and obstruction.”
Gardner went down to the clerk of criminal court office in the basement of the Guilford County Courthouse on Nov. 24 and filed two subpoenas.
The first was issued to the Greensboro Transit Authority, whose headquarters is located about three blocks from the Depot, requesting surveillance video from the night Gardner was allegedly assaulted. The address and phone number were correctly listed.
The second was issued to Robert David Watlington, a friend with whom Gardner was speaking on his cell phone at the time of the alleged attack. Watlington was reached by a reporter at the phone number listed on the subpoena, and Gardner talks to him frequently. Gardner said that Watlington’s family has lived at the address listed on the subpoena for 30 years, and his friend moved back to the house about four months ago. A third subpoena was filed by the prosecution for Gardner himself that included his correct address.
All three subpoenas were returned by the Greensboro Police Department warrant squad bearing the stamp “unable to serve.”
Greensboro Transit Authority Director Libby James said she knew nothing of the subpoena for the surveillance video and did not receive it. In any case, Speedling said the video is kept for only 30 to 90 days, depending on which technology is used, and the recordings would have been destroyed in early August or early October.
“When we get the subpoena, we usually send the person a letter in the mail,” Sgt. Davis said. “The person is requested to call in. If they do not call in, it would be sent back to the court.”
A fourth subpoena was successfully served. Brian Tomlin, a lawyer in private practice, issued a subpoena to Omar Mahoney, Meadows’ fellow security guard at the Depot. The document indicates that a Greensboro police officer served it by telephone.
Gardner showed up in court on Nov. 25, and he said he was concerned that Meadows’ trial would proceed before the subpoenas could be served, so he made a point to discuss the matter with the assistant district attorney handling the case. “I came into the courtroom and sat on the first two benches reserved for victims and witnesses,” Gardner said. “A few minutes later, Mr. Meadows appeared from the back hallway, where the bailiffs, police officers and lawyers typically enter. He shook one of the ADA’s hands, a couple of the bailiff’s hands and some other court personnel. Right off the bat, that just seemed inappropriate, with him being on trial. I could see if he was working in his normal capacity, but to me it just seemed like a clear-cut attempt to intimidate me. “It wasn’t too much longer after that, that an assistant ADA called my name to see if I was in the courtroom,” he continued. “As I began to tell the ADA I had subpoenas that had not been served, he shushed me.” Assistant District Attorney Tom Carruthers, who was assigned to try the case based on Gardner’s complaint, said it’s typical for the District Attorney to try cases in district court that were brought by citizens without thoroughly reviewing the evidence.
“When you have charges based on citizen complaints, district court DAs do not have the resources and time to look down the road toward trail,” he said. “We’re constantly looking at whether we have the evidence…. You [review the evidence] the day the trial.”
Carruthers added, “It is atypical for a defendant to enter the side door. That’s because he is a security guard, and has access.”
The District Attorney is scheduled to try defendant Bryan Wayne Meadows on Jan. 29 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and injury to personal property.
The District Attorney dismissed the simple assault charge against Meadows that was based on Hiram Gardner’s complaint in open court on Tuesday. Before the trial, Meadows entered the courtroom in uniform through the side door, and Carruthers called Gardner, Watlington and Chris Brook, a lawyer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham into the hallway. Carruthers told them the defense would likely try to undermine Gardner’s credibility by disclosing the existence of two unserved warrants for assault.
At noon, Carruthers called Gardner forward as Meadows took a seat in the defense chair. Gardner was nowhere to be found.
“I was trying to help him because I didn’t want him to feel ambushed when it came out that he had a couple of warrants out,” Carruthers told Brook. “That’s the reason I told him back there.”
“I think he just got spooked,” Brook replied. Carruthers got the judge, a visiting jurist from Randolph County, to agree to postpone the trial until 2 p.m. When court resumed, Gardner had still not been located. Carruthers dismissed the charge.
Jordan Green at email@example.com
Source: Yes Weekly