Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Occupy odds and ends: Safe initiative, smelly discovery

Some odds and ends from the Occupy Charlotte protests after police removed tents from the camp, which had stood since last fall:

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe and Capt. Jeff Estes both called the initiative a success. No officers or protesters were injured and there were no reports of use of force. Officers were professional and didn't respond as protesters insulted them.
The Fire Department's hazardous materials team was called out to the Occupy Charlotte site Tuesday, after police discovered that protesters were apparently using a storm drain as a bathroom. 

According to sources, the storm drain on the lawn of old City Hall empties into Little Sugar Creek. City officials were trying to figure out the most effective and environmentally friendly way to clean up the mess. It's unclear if police will be able to charge anyone with a crime. 

In October, a few weeks after the start of the Occupy Charlotte movement, organizers told city officials they'd like to set up portable bathrooms for people who have joined the movement, even appealing to Mayor Anthony Foxx for help. 

But city officials said they're not required to allow restroom facilities or other "semi-permanent" structures to be put on city property. It was unclear, until Monday when police broke up the camp, if the Occupiers had found a solution.

Photo: WCNC.com

Occupiers talked extensively with members of the media on Sunday, after they were given their first warning about having to remove tents from the lawn of old City Hall. But there were some things organizers chose to keep secret, even going off to another part of the camp to have private discussions.
One of those secrets was apparently a codeword for when officers arrived. When officers stormed out of police headquarters around 2:45 p.m. Monday, several occupiers yelled "Flamingo" and began running toward tents.
Some of the protest chants:
  • "Arrest us, we'll multiply. Occupy will never die."
  • "Show me what a police state looks like. This is what a police state looks like."
  • "Free speech is not a crime. Occupy will never die."
  • "We are the 99%"
As officers descended on the Occupy Charlotte camp, local TV stations chronicled nearly every move.

But they weren't the only ones recording. At least two police officers were assigned to tape the interactions with protesters. And protesters made their own recordings. Some used camera phones, another person used an iPad to record the arrests.

Protesters have also been been recording on-air interviews with the media, saying they wanted to have the ability to correct any misinformation. Before an interview, the person going on camera would often yell "I need a spotter." It's unclear where the videos were filed or if they were ever used.

Video recordings have made national news in other Occupy protests. In October, Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York claimed police tricked them, saying officers told protesters they could go onto the Brooklyn Bridge, then arresting hundreds. New York police later released a video showing an officer with a megaphone, warning protesters not to walk on the bridge.
Occupy Charlotte protesters had been preparing for a showdown with police for days. On Sunday, they had a group discussion about passive resistance and nonviolent protest.

But organizers stressed that the decision about whether to get arrested or not was a personal choice by each individual protester.

"You have to be practical with people's safety, with people's lives," said James Lee Walker II, who had been involved in the Occupy Charlotte protest since October. Like the majority of protesters, he wasn't arrested on Monday.
At one point near the end of Monday's police initiative, protesters crossed Trade Street where Chief Monroe and two dozen police officers watched the events unfold.

"Since the police see fit to occupy the people's campground, why don't we go over there and show them some love?" said Michael Zytkow.

When they got there, they did the hokey pokey. (They changed the last line to "You do the hokey pokey and you kiss your rights goodbye.") At one point, one man did the dance move "The worm."

-- Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

Friday, January 13, 2012

15 recently convicted in Mecklenburg homicides and fatal crashes

Fifteen people were convicted from October to December in Mecklenburg County cases of homicides and fatal crashes, according to a quarterly report released by the District Attorney’s Office.


Jeffrey Jenkins, 30, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 2006 shooting death of 33-year-old Charles “Jake” Melton in Matthews. Jenkins was sentenced to up to nearly two years in prison.

Tricia Rawana, 33, pleaded guilty to felony death by vehicle. In 2009, police said Rawana was impaired when she drove the wrong way on East W.T. Harris Boulevard and struck another car head-on. The crash killed the other driver, 43-year-old Kim Mobley. Rawana, who was hospitalized for about a month after the crash, was sentenced to 20-33 months in prison.


John Adams, 34, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the shooting death of his mother, 63-year-old Ada Adams. In June 2010, police said an ongoing custody dispute over John Adams' son resulted in the shooting at a home off Beatties Ford Road. The boy called 911 and told dispatchers his father shot his grandmother in the kitchen. Ada Adams, a retired worker at a Lance snack food plant, had been shot in the chest, police said. John Adams was sentenced to about 16-20 years in prison.

Shamon Goins, 21, and Dantonio Hamilton, 20, each pleaded guilty to discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle in connection with the killing of Devon Clement, 20. Clement was shot in front of dozens of people at the Cook-Out restaurant on West Sugar Creek Road in May 2010. Prosecutors said the only gunshot that struck Clement was fired by another suspect, Cherelle Griffin, who pleaded guilty in September to second-degree murder. Goins, who was on probation at the time of the shooting, was sentenced to 25-39 months in prison. Hamilton received the same sentence, but it was suspended pending his successful completion of three years on supervised probation. Hamilton was also ordered to be put on electronic house arrest for 30 days.

Travis Moore, 26, pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in the 2010 crash near Charlotte Motor Speedway that killed Amanda George, 25. Police said George had gone to the Bank of America 500 race with friends but got separated from her group and was trying to find them. She was trying to cross U.S. 29, when she was hit by a truck driven by Moore, police said. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, but the sentence was suspended pending his successful completion of 18 months of supervised probation.

Jamarr Springs, 29, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, robbery with a dangerous weapon, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and second-degree kidnapping. Prosecutors said Springs' girlfriend, Pamela Garmon, was planning to end their relationship in December 2010, and during an argument, Springs grabbed an AK-47 and shot her to death. When Springs fled, he tried to stop a car with two people inside and fired a shot at the car when they drove around him, prosecutors said. He later forced a driver out of a car at Northlake Mall and made the vehicle’s passenger ride with him as he drove to a relative’s house. At his sentencing, Springs said he loved Garmon and didn’t realize he was shooting at her because he was under the influence. He will spend up to about 48 years in prison.

Thomas Davis, 42, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Linda Wise, 54. Davis was taken into custody in Baltimore about three months after Wise was found beaten in her apartment on Effingham Road in August 2010. Neighbors said they had heard screaming from inside the apartment. Davis was sentenced to about 15-19 years in prison.

A jury found Shawn Howard, 29, guilty of murder and discharging a gun into occupied property in the killing of his landlord, Jacob Massachi, 53. Massachi was shot after trying to evict Howard and his girlfriend from a home in the Grier Heights neighborhood in July 2008. The couple hadn’t paid all of their rent, neighbors said, and Massachi had come to the home to remove Howard’s belongings. That’s when Howard shot the married father of two, according to neighbors. A Superior Court judge sentenced Howard to life in prison without the possibility of parole, as well as up to about three additional years in prison for the weapon charge.


Tracy Gilliam, 29, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree burglary and possession of a firearm by a felon in connection with the 2010 killing of his ex-girlfriend LaSheira Hall. Relatives said Hall, the mother of three, was holding a baby when Gilliam shot her. He was later arrested in Detroit. Gilliam was sentenced to up to about 34 years in prison.

Mercedes Smith, 22, pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice. Prosecutors said she concealed the whereabouts of Corey Grant, who previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the September 2009 killing of Jimmy Sanderlin, 24. Smith was sentenced to six to eight months in prison, but the sentence was suspended pending her successful completion of two years of supervised probation.

Seth Smith, 30, pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle for the deaths of 26-year-old Courtney Puckett and her child. Puckett and her 15-month-old daughter, Alexandria Hinkley, were riding with Smith when he veered off a road and slammed into a tree in October 2009, police said. Puckett and her daughter died at the scene, and Smith was seriously injured. Police said they believed excessive speed had caused the crash. Records showed Smith had a long history of speeding and had been previously charged at least eight times with speeding in North Carolina since he was 18. Smith was sentenced to 200 days in prison.

Oz Thomas, 22, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Travis Davis, 21. Witnesses told police in May 2009 that they saw several people involved in an argument in front of a home in west Charlotte and then heard gunfire. Davis suffered a gunshot wound and was taken to an area hospital, where he died. Thomas was sentenced to about five to seven years in prison.

Melissa Wooten, 29, pleaded guilty to driving while impaired and misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in connection with the death of Rosemarie Lyle, 55. Police said Lyle was trying to cross North Tryon Street near the NoDa neighborhood in July 2011 when she was struck by a car driven by Wooten. Lyle died later at Carolinas Medical Center. Police said Wooten initially left the scene of the collision but returned a short time later. Wooten was sentenced to nearly seven months in jail, but the sentence was suspended pending her successful completion of 18 months of supervised probation. She was also ordered to immediately serve 72 hours in jail and pay a $1,000 fine.

Tyler Stasko, 23, was put on trial for three counts of second-degree murder stemming from an April 2009 crash that killed three people, including two children. Stasko, of Matthews, and Carlene Atkinson, 47, of Lake Wylie, were accused of racing at speeds of up to 100 mph on N.C. 49 near Lake Wylie when Stasko's Mitsubishi Eclipse smashed into a Mercedes. Killed in the wreck were 45-year-old Cynthia Furr, her 2-year-old daughter, McAllister Price, and 13-year-old Hunter Holt, a passenger in Stasko’s car. A jury found Stasko guilty of three counts of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder. He was sentenced to at least three years and nine months in prison. Atkinson wasn't involved in the wreck, but she is also charged with three counts of second-degree murder. Her case has not yet gone to trial.

--Meghan Cooke

From top to bottom, left to right: Tricia Rawana, John Adams, Shamon Goins, Dantonio Hamilton, Travis Moore, Jamarr Springs, Thomas Davis, Tracy Gilliam, Mercedes Smith, Seth Smith, Oz Thomas, Melissa Wootsen, and Tyler Stasko.