Visit the Heirs’ Property Retention Coalition online here – https://southerncoalition.org/hprc
** UPDATE 2/12/10: SCSJ releases its response to the Army Corps of Engineers Final Environmental Impact Study **
New Hill is a small unincorporated community in Wake County, NC. In October 2004, New Hill was selected by Western Wake Partners, a partnership between the governments of Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, and Morrisville, as the site where a new sewage treatment plant would be located.
There are clear environmental injustices in this case. The population surrounding the site is upwards of 75% ethnic/racial minorities. Ironically, the community does not currently have access to sewer services, and only the property that is directly adjacent to the plant would be connected to it. The community has also been targeted for negative environmental impacts before – the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant, one of only three in the state, is also located there. The towns represented in Western Wake Partners are all far from the borders of New Hill and their populations include a much lower percentage of ethnic/racial minorities of about 19% on average.
The New Hill Community Association has been fighting this plan for several years and is now represented by SCSJ. We will be holding community meetings and pursuing legal strategies as the case goes forward.
SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION TO SUPPORT THE NEW HILL COMMUNITY AND END THIS CASE OF ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM
Press Coverage Archive:|
The percussive sounds of an activist drum corps echoed off the brick walls of the Hampton Homes housing project in Greensboro the Saturday after Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. A parade of people roughly 175 strong made its way north along Ashe Street towards downtown.
Jorge Cornell, who leads the North Carolina Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation as King Jay, headed the march with members of his organization, his girlfriend and a handful of pastors. Several Latin Kings, along with a complement of young black men acted as marshals, flanking the centerline of the street to confine the march to its allotted single lane. As they moved up Elm Street and then Greene Street, the procession took on a jubilant feel, and Samuel Velasquez, known as King Hype, and other Latin Kings threw their organization’s sign in the air. Members chanted, “Kings’ love, black and gold, queens’ love, black and gold.”
When they reached Governmental Plaza, Cornell took position halfway up a set of steps opposite a covered stage. Cornell kept himself surrounded on all sides as members fanned out along the length of the steps until their leader gestured for them to pull in. Cornell occasionally dispatched a runner with a handwritten note to the Rev. Nelson Johnson, his spiritual advisor and supporter in pursuing peace among black and Latino street organizations. Eric Ginsburg, a Guilford College student who had written an article favorable to the Latin Kings, greeted Cornell with an embrace. Derick Smith, a political science professor at NC A&T University, shook his hand.
Cornell took his turn among the parade of speakers, but the most fiery words were spoken by Johnson, a religious and political leader who had organized an ill-fated march almost three decades past that saw Klansmen and Nazis open fire, killing five of his revolutionary comrades in a Greensboro housing project as police tactical units waited for their orders nearby.
“I just want to mention briefly, and focus on the harassment, the provocation, the abuse growing out of the gang squad of the Greensboro Police Department,” Johnson said. “The gang squad’s actions have created a dangerous situation. I’m not just here blowing smoke today. A situation, that if it is not solved and solved in a hurry, it holds the possibility of people getting killed, some of whom you see at this place today.”
There could be little doubt but that Cornell, the heavyset 32-year-old Puerto Rican transplant from New York City who established the Latin Kings in North Carolina in 2005 with the blessing of national leadership in Chicago, was the man whose life was considered endangered.
The Rev. Johnson contends that numerous charges taken out against the Latin Kings by the gang unit, often dropped, with inordinately high bond amounts, are having the effect of bleeding the members financially, causing members to lose jobs and get evicted from apartments, isolating them from the community and setting them up as targets of violence. His colleague, the Rev. Gregory Headen, who also leads a predominantly African-American congregation on the city’s east side, worries that police harassment could potentially have the absurd effect of pushing the organization into criminal activities for survival.
The gang unit makes no apology for its handling of the Latin Kings.
“We’re just doing the best we can,” said Sgt. Ron Sizemore, head of the unit, in a recent interview. “We’re not out to get anyone. We’re not doing anything sinister.”
Johnson had sat beside Cornell at the pastor’s activist community center on June 30 as the Latin Kings leader issued a call for the Bloods, Crips, MS-13 and other street organizations to unify and conclude a peace agreement. That seems to have been the moment when Cornell’s troubles really crystallized, the pastor has observed.
The latest source of outrage had been a raid by plain-clothed members of the gang unit on a Latin Kings touch football game the previous Saturday in Center City Park. Cornell had been arrested and charged with felony abduction of children and misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, and three other members of his organization — including a 20-year-old man who had served a prison sentence for assault with a deadly weapons with intent to inflict serious injury — were also arrested and charged with felonies.
What is generally agreed upon about the alleged crime is that a 15-year-old girl had been with the young men the previous night during a trick-or-treat outing and the girl had been confronted by her older sister, a former member of the organization, who wanted her to come home. The boyfriend of the girl, 18-year-old Allan Jordan, blocked the sister, and the girl willing departed with the young men. The next day, she was with them at the park for the touch football game when the gang unit swooped in.
The four Latin Kings were out on bond for the rally at Governmental Plaza, and it was decided that another game of touch football would be an appropriate gesture against police oppression. The Latin Kings would take on Guilford College.
After the rally, about 14 adult Latin Kings, give or take four or five teenagers, and six children who also wore the organization’s colors, cut through February 1 Place. They stopped to visit Russell Kilfoil, known as King Peaceful, in front of the Empire Room on South Elm Street. Peaceful, who had not attended the rally, took a break from a kitchen shift at a nearby restaurant to meet them. Then they marched in formation up South Elm Street, chanting and throwing signs. When they reached Market Street, Cornell halted the procession.
“Hold on,” he said. “We don’t want to get hit with some jaywalking.”
After they arrived at Center City Park, Cornell and another Latin King got in a car and went off to get white bread, ham and Food Lion sodas. While they were gone, the two sides practiced. The Rev. Johnson strolled through and tossed the ball with the guys a couple times. Later, the Latin Kings and the college students gathered under a pergola to share the meal.
Cornell’s eldest daughter tugged at his sleeve, and pleaded to him that some other children she had befriended were also hungry.
Cornell reproved her: “We can’t feed everybody. We do as much as we can.”
From an outsider’s perspective, Cornell and his organization demonstrate a discipline that can seem somewhat intimidating, especially combined with the younger members’ exuberant flashing of signs and chanting, which comes across as mocking and defiant towards authority. Cornell’s stare can seem icy and impenetrable, at the very least guarded and wary. But when the Latin King leader draws a newcomer into his orbit, the opposite impression is left. He comes across as warm, thoughtful and sincere.
The game commenced. The Latin Kings led Guilford College, and then the Latin Kings suggested that whoever made the next touchdown would win the game. Guilford possessed the ball, but the Latin Kings made an interception and scored the touchdown. The Latin Kings prevailed, 11-9.
A homeless man who passes his days in the park, and who gave his name only as Max, had been watching. He wore a Pittsburgh Steelers sweatshirt with the Latin Kings colors, but he said he had never heard of the organization.
“I haven’t seen anything here that says these people are bad,” he said. “There hasn’t been one thing that has gone wrong. If there was, this is my park and I would say so.”
He elaborated: “A guy went into the bathroom and peed on the wall. And I said, ‘If this was your wall, you could do that, but that’s my wall.’ If someone’s going to do something that hurts the rest of us I’ll tell them because it’s my responsibility.”
He struggled with the notion that many members of this group have been charged by the Greensboro Police Department, and their case files stamped “validated gang.”
“This is not a traditional gang,” he said.
Attitudes towards gangs among the electorate and the political establishment in Greensboro hardened in 2007. Police began noting suspected gang activity in incident reports. Keith Holliday, the outgoing mayor, called on the General Assembly to pass tough, new anti-gang legislation. The Greensboro Police Department created a gang enforcement unit in October 2007, at the request of city council, although the council was unwilling to allocate new funding to pay for it. The department assigned 12 members to the unit, and submitted a request the next year to ramp up to 20 members.
“I looked at the data on so-called gang activity,” consultant Carroll Buracker told the city council in July, “and there is no pattern that I would recommend that many people.”
The creation of the gang unit appears to be based more on political considerations that demonstrated public safety needs.
During their months-long review of the department, Buracker and his colleagues noted that the budget request included no quantitative indicators, only a note contending that “commercial robberies are unusually high… there are more reported incidents of youth violence than ever before, and our schools have been negatively impacted by the activities related to youth gangs.” In fact, the Buracker report found, the city’s violent crime rate fell from 2006 to 2007. Based on about 14,000 calls for service a year, the report recommended that the department establish a five-member domestic abuse team. Those findings and recommendations elicited little public discussion among council members.
The two leading candidates for governor this year each pledged to get tough on gangs. Democrat Bev Perdue promised to “attack gangs as organized crime operators,” and Republican Pat McCrory told broadcaster Jim Longworth in September: “We need to give severe penalties, especially to gangs that recruit eleven- and twelve- and thirteen-year-old kids out of our schools to sell drugs on the corners of the streets right here in Winston-Salem.”
Concern about gangs has also fused with unease about immigration from Latin America, and growing intolerance towards those who enter the country illegally, creating a sense that law-abiding and native-born North Carolinians are under siege. The killing of two men eating at a Mexican restaurant on High Point Road in early December 2007 in a crime in which an alleged member of MS-13 was later indicted quickened the Greensboro City Council’s pulse.
“I understand that one of many groups coming in from El Salvador to California — I don’t know what kind of PR we’re doing for gangs from California because these gangs have been known not only to walk into restaurants and shoot people but go from individual to individual but also political activity that they have been involved in,” newly-elected Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw said on Dec. 11, 2007.
It was 10 days earlier that Jorge Cornell would later say he had experienced his first run-in with the gang unit. Cornell is as native born as the sons and daughters of generations of Piedmont textile workers, but legal residency has been among the factors used by the authorities to set inordinately high bond for members of the Latin Kings. Among the extraordinary factors cited for Samuel Velasquez’s bond level was that he was in the country illegally, but in a subsequent plea transcript he wrote that he was a US citizen, and his conspicuous presence at the Nov. 8 march suggested that he harbors no fear of deportation.
The warrant for the Dec. 1, 2007 incident accuses Cornell of striking police Officer RC Finch with a closed fist with his left arm while the officer placed him under arrest for disorderly conduct.
“We went to pick up one of our queen sisters for a party we were having,” Cornell recalled. “The police stopped us. They told her to step back from the vehicle, and they came to the car with guns drawn.” Cornell said he complied with an order to lie on the ground, but stiffened his neck when an officer tried to slam his head into the ground. With his daughter standing nearby, he conceded that he did call the officer “an F-ing pig.” After he was handcuffed and lying on the ground, Cornell said, one or more officers swung at him.
Finch said he told Cornell to get out of the car because his language was provoking aggression from the passengers and he was arresting him for disorderly conduct. Finch said Cornell was not cooperative and he had to “escort” the Latin King leader to the ground, but that did not include striking him as he forced him into a prone position and placed handcuffs on him.
A trial had been set for July, but it has now been pushed back to early December.
Georgia Nixon, a High Point lawyer who represents Cornell, said she has not had a chance to meet with Officer Finch, and has been unable to corroborate her client’s account.
“I do know that every time one of them has even the simplest of matters like failure to carry your driver’s license, there’s always a lot of commotion and talk among the officers,” she said, adding: “These charges are very serious, and they should be taken out only when an officer sincerely feels he has been assaulted or threatened. I have had no chance to verify them. I have been dealing with Jorge for some time, and he seems very sincere in trying to keep his peace quest going. I find it not in his character to do that.”
“That night was the first night I met the gang unit,” Cornell said. “We go back to the department, and I’m talking to AJ Blake. I took a comfortability to him; he’s Honduran. I said, ‘This is crazy. I didn’t assault no government official.’ He asked me what hand did I write with? I told him my left. So then you see that the warrant specifically says that I used my left arm to assault this officer.”
Sgt. Sizemore said he had not heard about Blake extracting information from Cornell about his dexterity before the warrant surfaced, but he added that the Latin Kings leader “has no credibility in my mind.”
Two months later, Cornell and Kilfoil were each hit with 11 counts of felony conspiracy based on statements by a cell phone store employee caught embezzling that she had turned over cash to the two men under threat of violence.
All 11 charges were eventually dropped.
“It certainly seems to me that they charge first and do an investigation later,” Nixon said of the gang unit. “I can tell you that it’s rare when this happens. I have lots of clients who tell me ‘Yes, I did this,’ or ‘No, I didn’t .’ When you start to put the pieces together, it may go to trial or they may decide to plead down the charges. With Jorge’s cases, I barely got involved, and the DA looked at it and said, ‘Based on what the officer turned in, we have to dismiss this.’”
Sizemore said all the felony charges against Latin Kings members have been taken out as a result of specific complaints.
“That was a call that went out to the patrol officer,” he said. “We met at the substation. We interviewed this girl. She gave specific information. She gave specific information. She was Russell Kilfoil’s girlfriend. At that point, if you get information like that you’re duty-bound to act…. The DA did contact us and say they were dropping charges. I don’t agree with that.”
Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann recalled: “She told the police a couple different stories. One of the stories was that she was doing this for the Latin Kings, and they had threatened to harm her family if she didn’t continue to do so. We were able to find where she had literally made thousands of dollars of cash purchases herself at a jewelry store in Greensboro, and at Dillards at Four Seasons. We were able to substantiate that she was spending the cash. All of these were public places that were under video surveillance by businesses.”
In early May, Velasquez turned himself in at the Guilford County magistrate’s office on charges of first-degree attempted murder that were filed by Officer Roman Watkins of the gang unit. The charge was dismissed by Assistant District Attorney Christopher Parrish on the basis that “there is insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution for the following reason: defendant was in car after the event,” but not before Velasquez spent five and a half months in jail awaiting trial.
He had been unable to make bail, and because he was sitting in jail he was unable to work. He couldn’t earn money to pay a lawyer, so he had to go with a court-appointed public defender. On Sept. 3, he signed an Alford plea of guilty to two separate charges of possession of a stolen firearm and carrying a concealed gun. The .380 Bersa semiautomatic pistol was later returned to its owner, Oliver Franklin of Liberty.
When Cornell made his call for peace among street organizations in late June, the initiative was already clouded by controversy and confusion created by a misdemeanor charge against him. Cornell said members of his organization had told him that the gang unit was looking for him with a warrant for his arrest on charges of communicating a threat to a police officer. Cornell sought Johnson’s council, and then the Latin Kings leader went to magistrate’s office to surrender, but he said there was no warrant.
Days after the press conference, a warrant for misdemeanor aiding and abetting an operator’s license violation materialized. It was dismissed by the district attorney the following month.
Then, in early July, Kilfoil was allegedly assaulted by a private security officer at the Depot in downtown Greensboro.
“I was there with a couple of friends one night, and I got attacked for smoking a cigarette in an area I was not supposed to,” Kilfoil says in a DVD produced by the Pulpit Forum, a consortium of African-American pastors of which Johnson is a member. “It basically started with the officer telling me to remove from the area and smoke by the curb. I did so. Then I started walking towards the buses when they started to come in. Out of nowhere from behind an officer threw me up against the wall, hit me a couple times….”
Kilfoil filed a complaint with the Greensboro Human Relations Department. He and Cornell have said that Human Relations Director Anthony Wade reviewed a surveillance videotape and confirmed the assault. Wade, in turn, said that he hopes an official investigation will be completed by the end of the year, when its findings will be turned over to the complainant. While refusing to comment on the investigation, he confessed, “I like Jorge a lot.”
The Rev. Johnson has met with Wade, Mayor Yvonne Johnson, City Manager Mitchell Johnson and police Chief Tim Bellamy on the Latin Kings’ behalf, but the scope of the Human Relations Department’s inquiry has been limited to the Depot incident. Both Mayor Johnson and the pastors have said a meeting is being arranged with the gang unit itself, but a date has not been set.
The Pulpit Forum has characterized the actions of the gang unit as “provocative,” and argued that the high bond amounts placed on Latin King members for charges that are typically dismissed has exacted a “financial burden” that is “devastating.”
“My perspective is just simply that I very much appreciate the effort on behalf of the Pulpit Forum and Latin Kings to seek peace and renounce violence of any kind,” City Manager Johnson said, “but at the same time if there are complaints that the police need to follow up on, then they need to follow up on them.
If there is a situation where the gang unit is overstepping their responsibilities, then I’m sure the police chief will review it,” he added. “I’ve talked to the chief quite a bit about what was his assessment of the concerns about the gang unit and he seemed to be very comfortable with it, and I was comfortable with his explanation.”
On Aug. 11, Cornell dismissed members of his organization after an outing to the movies, and went to pick up his daughters. Then Cornell, his girlfriend and the girls went to visit Jason Paul Yates, known as King Squirrel, at the Cedar West apartment complex in southwest Greensboro. The others went inside and Cornell walked over to talk to some young men sitting outside.
That’s when shots rang out from the dark outside the illuminated outside corridors at the apartment complex. One bullet hit Cornell in the leg, and another tore through his shoulder and exited his chest. A police press release subsequently described Cornell’s status as critical condition, and he said a doctor told him he might die.
“This is what really disturbs me,” Cornell said. “That night in the hospital when I was shot, the gang unit was there. I asked Officer Blake — the apartment complex was under surveillance — I asked why this particular Sunday they were nowhere to be found. Officer Blake said that they were in the office doing paperwork. It did not register with me then. Later, I’m thinking about what I could have done differently, and I’m going through the whole situation.”
Cornell expressed forgiveness to whoever might have shot him from his hospital bed through the Rev. Johnson.
“Jorge has said that he’s not willing to prosecute anyone,” Sizemore said. “They’ve changed their story from ‘it was a black man that jumped out of the woods’ to ‘it was a Hispanic.’ I don’t think it’s going anywhere. I heard that they thought it was Surenos from southern Mexico that were mad because Jorge was making statements about peace between black and brown.”
Days after Cornell was shot the home of 34-year-old Cara Martha Williams, a friend of the Latin Kings and mother of one of its members, was invaded by an unidentified man. As King Hova tells it, he was there with her at the time, and he tried to get the man to go outside with him, but the intruder sucker-punched him and laid him out. Then several Latin King members returned, and chased the man out the back door.
They ended up retaliating against the wrong person. Yates is accused of striking 52-year-old Louis Young in the head with a beer bottle while the man was in bed in his house. Young received a written apology from Cornell.
While in questioning, Yates said that Sizemore told him “he would have liked nothing better than to have woken up in the morning, read the newspaper and found that King Jay had been killed.” Sizemore denies making the statement.
Sizemore acknowledged that he said something like what Yates’ alleged, but says the statement was taken out of context.
“I made an off-hand joke,” Sizemore said. “Probably it was in bad taste. He was laughing. I was laughing.”
Later, Sizemore said that Cornell accused him of being the person who shot him.
“That’s absurd,” he said.
After the Oct. 31 trick-or-treat incident, Magistrate JB Antonelli wrote on a document justifying bond that the family of the 15-year-old girl was “terrified” of Cornell, boyfriend Allan Jordan and Robert Vasquez “because they are Latin Kings.”
The characterization has infuriated the Pulpit Forum pastors.
Sizemore said it was based on statements from the girl’s older sister and her mother.
“These are juvenile statutes,” Sizemore said. “Elements of the crime are that there was a 15-year-old girl whose parent and sister wanted her to come home. Those charged verbally and physically got in the way of her being returned to her family.” Sizemore added that Cornell “was directing the other gang members to block them from getting to her.”
To the contrary, the Pulpit Forum asserts, Cornell left the scene as soon as the dispute began between the two sisters because he didn’t want to involve himself in a family matter.
“What we are very clear on,” the Rev. Johnson said, “is that no abduction occurred.”
Sizemore said one of his Spanish-speaking officers contacted the mother and asked her if she would consent to be interviewed for this story, but the woman said she didn’t want to talk because she was afraid. Johnson declined to provide contact information for the mother because he said he wanted to protect the identity of the 15-year-old girl, whose name is a matter of public record.
The police detained the 15-year-old girl when they arrested Cornell and his cohorts at Center City Park on Nov. 1 during the first touch football game, and took her home.
“Her mother was very grateful to us, and expressed it,” Sizemore said.
A statement by Rev. Johnson to reporters at a Nov. 6 press conference paints a different picture.
“I’ve just spent time with the mother of the 15-year-old girl,” he said. “And she has, in fact, given permission to the young man who they say abducted her to continue in relationship with her. And she’s not familiar with the other players, but as for the person who was charged with abduction, the parents say the relationship is fine at this time, and knew of it preceding this.”
Johnson has become a spiritual advisor to Cara Martha Williams, whose son is a Latin Kings member. Johnson told the assembly at Governmental Plaza on Nov. 8 that Williams had wept in the parking lot of his church the previous night.
“This mother, with a teenage son and two small children, was visited by the gang squad and she was frightened so much that she was literally afraid to go back to her own house and take her children back there,” Johnson said. “And I do not say these things lightly, but I must publicly declare that this is wrong, it is evil, and it needs to be opposed by all of us who are gathered here. This mother was told that her house was a gang house, and therefore it was a target. And this means that it is a dangerous house for you to live in.”
Two days later, Officer Roman Watkins of the gang unit arrested Williams on charges of abduction of children and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, based on the allegation that a separate 15-year-old girl had been at her house and Williams had caused the girl to miss school, associate with gang members and not return home.” Watkins also charged Williams with two counts of resisting a public officer for allegedly lying about the girl’s whereabouts to Watkins on Nov. 1, and then for pulling away from him when he arrested her a week later.
Williams’ 15-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter appeared before District Court Judge Margaret Sharpe on Nov. 10, as the jailed mother was patched in by video-teleconference for her hearing. A magistrate had set her bond at $25,000.
Sharpe appeared confused, asking Williams’ children if they were the ones that had been abducted. The son, who acknowledged his membership in the Latin Kings, told the judge the charges were false.
“I do not know that young lady,” Williams told the judge after the prosecutor stated the name of the 15-year-old girl who was allegedly abducted. “I have three children at home, and I have never been in any kind of trouble.”
“Are you Latin?” the judge asked. “You don’t look Latin.”
Williams explained that her two children are half-Hispanic.
“I’m not going to lower your bond,” the judge said, “because the more I learn the more complicated it gets.”
The abduction of children charges against Williams and her Latin Kings friends would seem to add up to an assertion that the organization is disrupting families, keeping children out of school, teaching them to defy parental authority and indoctrinating them in a program of criminality.
That’s not the way Williams sees it.
“The nation is a family to me, and has helped me out a lot,” she says in the DVD produced by the Pulpit Forum. “Jay has been a father figure to my oldest son, and has made him continue to go to school. When we first met, my son was in trouble. He was going through court every week. He was doing something different. He was locked up in juvie for doing stupid stuff. As far as I’m concerned, Jay helped my son get out of trouble. And he taught him, you respect your parents, respect adults, you go to school, you get an education. Because if you have an education, can’t nobody take nothing away from you.
“And this is a family-oriented situation,” she continued. “The nation comes to my home. We eat. We just talk. And that’s all it is. There’s no violence at my house. There’s no talk about doing things, like robbing and stealing and all that. I’ve never heard any of that. And I’ve known these young men and women for four years. And that’s the way it is. It’s all about, to me, peace.”
Jordan Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
March 23, 2009; Southern Coalition for Social Justice will represent New Hill in an Environmental Justice Matter to Challenge Plans of Western Wake Partners
Durham, NC – March 24 at 7p.m. New Hill, NC residents will meet to discuss new ways to address concerns about a draft Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that examines locating a wastewater treatment plant in their community – a proposal by the Western Wake Partners that has drawn opposition from the New Hill community since 2005.
New Hill is a rural, majority-minority community in Western Wake County, located near the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant. They are opposed to the placement of the plant by the Western Wake Partners in their community, contending that:
- The site places an unfair environmental burden on communities of color to the benefit of the predominantly white neighboring towns,
- the majority of residents would not benefit from the plant as most households use septic systems, and an increased proximity to wastewater treatment increases risk of exposure to groundwater contaminants,
- the proposed site is in the middle of the community’s historic district and adjacent to two community churches and a playground, and,
- it would be detrimental to their way of life.
The wastewater plant would primarily serve nearby Apex, Cary, Holly Springs, and Morrisville.
The proposed site, Site 14, would impact 231 residents, over 75% of whom are African American. The New Hill Community Association contends that there are better sites that would have little-to-no human impact, and that the social and environmental justice impacts of this site were not adequately considered by the Western Wake Partners.
The New Hill Community Association is working with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to challenge the placement of the plant. The Army Corps of Engineers released their draft EIS on March 13, 2008. Residents now have until April 28 to submit comments.
At the Tuesday night meeting, New Hill residents will work to prepare public comments to deliver at the Draft EIS Public Comments Hearing on April 14. Tuesday night’s meeting will be held at the New Hill Baptist Church off old US 1 in New Hill, NC.
For more information visit:
“Free Within Ourselves” – Fall 2010
Mobilizing to Build the Movement – Summer 2010
Every 10 Years, We Have an Opportunity – Spring 2010
Celebrate Human Rights: Countdown to 2010 – Winter 2009
SCSJ End of Summer News – Summer 2009
Social Justice Springs Forward! – Spring 2009
This Holiday – Help Bring Human Rights Home – Winter 2008
From This guide gives information about some of the many organizations in Durham that are working for community change. This guide gives information about some of the many organizations in Durham that are working for community change. From /wp-content/uploads/guidetochange.pdf
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