County Chair Attacks CMS Superintendent Over Funding Plan
Following days of public debate over a controversial county plan to withhold funds from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) until the district can formulate a plan to address inequity in student achievement, Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners chair George Dunlap lit into CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston on Sunday, stating that he landed his role because “nobody else would come to CMS.”
Dunlap’s comments, made while addressing the Black Political Caucus in a virtual meeting, came 10 days after the county presented its proposed budget, which included $532 million for CMS funding. According to the county plan, $56 million of that money would be withheld until CMS leaders could present a plan to close achievement gaps between white students and students of color. The $532 million in CMS funding is $19.4 million less than what the district asked for in its financial request on May 4.
At Sunday night’s meeting, Dunlap pointed out that Winston had previously served as a reporter at Charlotte Observer, adding, “He drove for [former superintendent] Peter Gorman. He became the chief of staff for the former superintendent and when nobody else would come to CMS, they made him superintendent.”
In a statement the following day, CMS Board of Education chair Elyse Dashew said the board was “appalled” at Dunlap’s personal attacks.
“The Board of County Commissioners does not — by North Carolina statutes — function as an oversight board for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. Thus, Mr. Dunlap’s remarks are not relevant. However, this kind of personal vindictiveness and vitriol has no place in the public discussion for two important reasons,” Dashew wrote.
One of those reasons is an arguing point that’s been stated by district leaders following the presentation of the budget and resulting debate over CMS funding. She emphasized that the board is already working to address inequity in schools through its 2024 Strategic Plan.
“The racist systems we are working to change have been in place for more than a century, and students have paid the price for that,” Dashew wrote. “We are committed to changing those systems and giving all students the opportunity to succeed. It will happen sooner if the county commission works with us, rather than against us.”
Jennings Family to Launch Independent Investigation
The family of Frankie “Pop” Jennings has retained the law office of attorney Ken Harris to handle an independent investigation of Jennings’ killing at the hands of US Marshals in March, including an investigation into any potential violation of Mr. Jennings’ civil rights, according to a press release put out on Wednesday.
Frankie Jennings was shot and killed by one or more US Marshals on March 23 in the parking lot of a Citgo gas station on the corner of The Plaza and Parkwood Avenue.
“Following the shooting, we initiated an investigation of this matter,” Harris wrote in a statement. “We were able to obtain an eyewitness account of the incident shortly after being contacted by the family. We have also been able to review a video of the incident. A family member was present at this viewing and has seen the videotape of the incident.”
CMPD is in charge of the official investigation, which Harris says is currently in the review process after all evidence was turned over to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office.
“We have had the opportunity to meet with the investigating detective and review some of the evidence in the case. And family members have been privy to that evidence,” Harris wrote. “We have also met with [the] District Attorney’s Office to obtain a status related to their receipt of the evidence and a potential timeline concerning their review of the evidence related to any potential charges in this matter.”
The D.A.’s office has not yet determined a date by which its review will be complete.
“We continue our independent investigation of this extremely concerning use of deadly force,” wrote Harris. “The key consideration must be obtaining the appropriate level of justice for Mr. Jennings and his family.”
CMPD Announces Results of ‘Operation Carolina Homecoming’
CMPD held a press conference on Wednesday announcing the end of Operation Carolina Homecoming (OCH), a collaborative two-week effort between agencies around the Charlotte area that recovered 27 missing juveniles who couldn’t be found in a previous, more widespread operation. Many of the juveniles were runaways, though “a few” were victims of trafficking, according to CMPD.
Before the launch of OCH, detectives and marshals with CMPD’s Missing Persons Unit detectives, US Marshal Service and the Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Unit recovered more than 130 missing and runaway juveniles.
“Following this preliminary effort, Detectives and Marshals launched the intensive recovery efforts of Operation Carolina Homecoming,” a Wednesday CMPD release read. Between April 26 and May 7, two-person teams consisting of marshals and detectives with the aforementioned agencies conducted extensive, targeted searches and located 27 more missing juveniles.
CMPD has partnered with multiple agencies and organizations around the Charlotte area to aid the juveniles in recovery as needed. This includes working with Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center, which Queen City Nerve featured in April.
Vaccinations Continue at Bojangles Coliseum
Despite a previous announcement that the large-scale walk-in vaccination clinic at Bojangles Coliseum would close in May to allow for more targeted vaccination efforts, Mecklenburg County Public Health announced Friday that StarMed will continue offering drive-thru vaccinations in the coliseum parking lot through June due to ongoing demand.
Except for closures on May 26 and June 1-5, the clinic will be open for appointments and walk-ins on the following days and times:
- Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 8:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
- Wednesdays: 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
- Saturdays: 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
MCPH reported on Friday that 43.5% of the total population of Mecklenburg County (482,819 residents; a 1.5% increase) had been at least partially vaccinated as of Wednesday, while 37.9% of Mecklenburg County’s total population (420,365 residents, a 2.2% increase) have been fully vaccinated.
According to the latest data from MCPH, released Friday morning, there had been 112,224 total cases of COVID-19 and 968 deaths related to the coronavirus in the county to that point, an increase of 638 cases and 11 deaths since the same time last week.
According to more in-depth data for cases that had occurred through Wednesday, the county had seen a 3.8% test-positivity rate over the previous week and an average of 98 laboratory confirmed infections per day, both decreasing trends compared to the previous two weeks. On average, 121 people were hospitalized on any given day due to COVID-19 over the past week, also a decreasing trend.
Three Murders Put Total at 39
Three people were shot and killed in separate incidents over the past week, and a toddler was found murdered in a home in north Charlotte, bringing the total number of illegal killings in the city this year to 39.
Just before 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, police were patrolling the area near Shannon Park in east Charlotte when they heard gunshots. As they searched for the source of the gunfire, a 911 call came in from Finchley Drive. They responded and found 41-year-old Ray Garlins lying dead of a gunshot wound outside of a home.
Detectives with the Real Time Crime Center soon identified a 21-year-old man who was wearing an electronic monitoring unit and was in the immediate area at the time of the shooting. The suspect was located that day and later charged with first-degree murder. On Tuesday, CMPD announced the arrest of a second suspect, aged 24, who has also been charged for Garlins’ murder.
Shortly before 1 p.m. on Monday, police responded to another shooting call on Celia Avenue in the Washington Heights neighborhood behind Northwest School of the Arts. Upon arrival, police found 21-year-old Devonte Washington suffering from a gunshot wound. MEDIC transported Washington to the hospital, where he later died.
Just after 12:30 p.m. on Friday, police responded to a shooting call on South Tryon Street near the intersection of West Arrowood Road and found 16-year-old Elijah Riggan dead of a gunshot wound.
Also on Friday, investigators found the remains of a 4-year-old girl named Mejelic Sandez who hadn’t been seen in several months. According to a CMPD release, investigators received several tips indicating that foul play may have been involved with the girl’s disappearance, leading them to begin a homicide investigation. On Friday they went to a home on Braden Drive in north Charlotte, where they found the girl’s remains. Her mother, 31-year-old Malikah Bennett, has been arrested and charged with felony child abuse, inflicting physical injury, felony concealing a death, and first-degree murder. Bennett was arrested for child abuse in 2020 as well.
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