News & Opinion

5 Things to Know: Charlotte Activist Among Cop City Arrests

...and four more stories from March 5-11, 2023

Charlotte Uprising
Jamie Marsicano (foreground, right) is one of 23 people facing domestic terror charges in connection with protest activities at the Cop City site in Georgia. (Pictured: Marsicano prepares to turn herself in for charges related to local protests following the police murder of George Floyd in 2023) (Photo by Jeff Taylor)

Charlotte Activist Among Cop City Arrests

It came to light this week that Charlotte activist Jamie Marsicano was one of the 23 people arrested and charged with domestic terrorism during Sunday protests at the planned Cop City site outside Atlanta, Georgia.

Protests have been ongoing at the planned site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center for police in DeKalb County, aka Cop City, but things came to a head on Sunday when police clashed with protesters taking part in a music festival at the site. Officers detained at least 35 people and eventually charged 23 with domestic terrorism, including a legal observer working with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

It has since come to light that some of those facing charges of domestic terrorism for their actions at Cop City were originally arrested for the simple fact that their shoes were muddy

Marsicanowho has been active with Charlotte Uprising since the group’s beginning in 2016, is one of those facing domestic terror charges for her role in Sunday’s protest. Police called the protesters’ action a “coordinated attack” and a “very violent attack,” though no officers were injured. Police, on the other hand, shot and killed 26-year-old Manuel Esteban “Tortuguita” Paez Teran, a “forest defender,” in January.

Marsicano was arrested twice in Charlotte in 2020 for protest-related activities in response to the police murder of George Floyd. She is currently attending UNC School of Law as a Dean’s Fellow. 

“At this point, Jamie Marsicano is a political prisoner in Georgia, a victim of the Governor and [attorney general]’s crackdown on people who [don’t] believe [in] dropping $100M on police facilities training how to better brutalize citizens,” wrote local attorney Tim Emry, who has represented Marsicano following previous protest-related arrests in Charlotte, in a tweet on Thursday


Local Organizations File Suit Against Federal Government

Three local organizations have filed lawsuits against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency in a case that could have national ramifications.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has partnered with Legal Aid of North Carolina and the North Carolina Justice Center to obtain legal relief for immigrant victims who have applied for a U Visa only to be stuck in limbo for years with no way to legally work and support their families.

Congress enacted the U Visa in 2000 to provide benefits to victims of crime who have been helpful to law enforcement. The three NC-based partners have filed a lawsuit against USCIS alleging that the agency has delayed the processing of the victims’ U Visa applications for years. The lawsuit is intended to compel the USCIS to follow Congress’s intent to protect immigrant victims of crime, according to a release on Thursday.

“For the domestic violence victim who just reported the crimes of their abusive partner, the very
same partner that paid the rent, it’s essential that work authorization is available as soon as possible, not five years from now,” said Rona Karacaova, managing attorney of Legal Aid NC’s Battered Immigrant Project. “These lawsuits will improve public safety and bring financial stability within victims’ reach like Congress intended.”

The lawsuits seek agency action on the delayed cases, specifically employment authorization, protection against deportation, and travel documents for petitioners abroad in need of re-unification with their families in the U.S.

While the suit has been filed in courts located in Nebraska and Vermont, the judgment that will be rendered has the potential to provide relief to everyone in the nation applying for the U Visa, impacting thousands in the Carolinas, stated Thursday’s release. 


Police Continue Search for Two Missing Teens

Police on Friday requested the public’s help in finding a 14-year-old girl who was last seen running away from West Mecklenburg High School in January. The case is similar to that of another teen girl who hasn’t been seen since leaving Olympic High School in February. 

CMPD on Friday stated that the family of 14-year-old Kamonie Teasley is concerned for her safety, as she hasn’t been seen since she left West Meck on Jan. 18. According to Friday’s release, Teasley is known to frequent the Charlotte Transportation Center, the area around the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Uptown and the hotels in the Sugar Creek corridor. They ask that anyone with information about Teasley’s whereabouts call 9-1-1. 

Leana Lang (Photo courtesy CMPD)

Though not believed to be related, the case is similar to that of 16-year-old Leana Lang, whose family also requested help in finding her last week. According to CMPD, Lang was last seen leaving Olympic High School in southwest Charlotte late at night on Feb. 13. She is 5’6″ and weighs 120 pounds, wearing either braids or natural hair style. According to the department’s Missing Persons Unit: “Recent information has caused family members to become concerned for her safety.” Anyone with information about her whereabouts is also asked to call 911.


Fort Mill EMT Arrested for On-Duty Sexual Assault

CMPD officials held a press conference on Thursday to announce the arrest and release of an alleged sexual predator who was working for Fort Mill EMT at the time he attacked a woman patient.

According to CMPD, the 30-year-old suspect sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl in the back of an ambulance while he was supposed to be treating her during a transport. The girl had suffered a medical episode and was being transported from Fort Mill to a hospital in Charlotte when the attack occurred on Jan. 17. He reportedly stuck his hands down the victim’s pants, knowing that doing so was not necessary whatsoever for treatment. 

According to a CMPD release, “The victim was treated at the hospital for her medical episode and also received a sex assault kit and examination. Following laboratory analysis of the sexual assault kit and examination of physical evidence and victim and witness testimony, detectives determined there was probable cause to charge the suspect.”

Police issued a warrant and the man was arrested at his home in Kannapolis on Tuesday, March 7. He was released on a $15,000 bond that same day, a point decried by CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings during the press conference and on Twitter on Thursday.

“37 minutes. That is how long it took for a Fort Mill Paramedic to be released from jail after being arrested by CMPD and charged with the sexual assault of a 17-year-old patient,” Jennings wrote. “What message are we sending to the most vulnerable in our society?”

He failed to mention why it took his department 49 days after the teen reported the assault to make an arrest. 

Jennings said he will continue to lobby for the North Carolina General Assembly to pass legislation that will allow judges more power to bypass the magistrate and make decisions about keeping violent suspects incarcerated while they await trial.


Police Search for Suspect in Fatal Hit-and-Run

Police are still searching for the driver that struck and killed a 26-year-old woman on Nations Ford Road last week, an incident that was caught on video. 

At around 9:46 p.m. on March 4, first responders were called to Nations Ford Road near Farmhurst Drive in reference to a hit-and-run vehicle collision involving a pedestrian. Upon arrival, officers located 26-year-old Olivia Kowalski lying in the roadway. Witnesses confirmed she had been struck by a vehicle. Medic pronounced Kowalski dead at the scene.

 

A preliminary investigation indicated that Kowalski was crossing Nations Ford Road when she was struck by the left-front end of a passing SUV. The driver of the SUV fled the crash scene on Nations Ford Road and onto I-77 North. Detectives located video of the crash and are working to identify the vehicle and its driver. Speed does not appear to be a factor for this crash and impairment is unknown as a factor for the driver of the SUV, as they have not yet been identified.

Kowalski was mother to an 8-year-old boy. Any person who witnessed the crash or has information about this case is asked to call Det. Mercedes at 704-432-2169, ext. #5.


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