No Apparent Suspects in Moore County Substation Attack
Federal, state and local investigators are still searching for suspects in an attack on two substations in Moore County that left 40,000 area residents without power for four days. The attack occurred at around 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, when unknown suspects broke into properties surrounding the substations then opened fire on the facilities, resulting in widespread power outages that were not fixed until Wednesday.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields has not publicly announced any suspects or leads in the investigation, which also involves state and local authorities. Though not yet confirmed, it has been widely speculated that the attack was carried out to sabotage a drag show that took place in Southern Pines, a town of around 15,000 people in Moore County, on the night of the attack.
Local right-wing extremist Emily Grace Rainey, a former Army psychological operations officer who left the military after leading a group of around 100 people to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was one of many conservatives who protested the drag show on social media in the days leading up to it. Following the attack, Rainey posted, “The power is out in Moore County and I know why.” Rainey has been known to target drag shows in the past, infiltrating one in Sanford in October.
Sheriff Fields on Sunday said he and his officers visited Rainey’s home and had “a word of prayer with her” before deciding she wasn’t involved. As power gradually returned to Moore County on Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that the state, Duke Energy and Moore County are each offering monetary rewards that total $75,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who carried out the substation attacks.
U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in ‘Moore v. Harper’
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Moore v. Harper, a North Carolina case that conservatives hope will give them broad powers over elections with little to no oversight from the courts.
The case stems from N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore’s argument that the U.S. Constitution allows state legislators to operate without checks and balances when drawing electoral districts, creating voting rules and administering elections. As noted by Common Cause NC executive director Bob Phillips in an op-ed published by Queen City Nerve on Monday, “a bad result in Moore means the General Assembly could rig voting maps, undermine votes, and manipulate elections. Neither state courts, nor the governor, could stop them.”
Neal Katyal, a partner with Hogan Lovells and former acting Solicitor General of the United States, argued Wednesday at the U.S .Supreme Court on behalf of non-state respondents, including Common Cause, Rebecca Harper, and the N.C. League of Conservation Voters.
“The blast radius from [Moore’s] theory will sow elections chaos, forcing a confusing two-track system with one set of rules for federal elections, and another for state ones,” Katyal said during oral arguments. “Case after case would wind up in this Court with a political party on either side of the dais that will put this Court in a difficult position instead of leaving it to the 50 states.”
Unlike many other cases that have come before this Supreme Court, the ruling in Moore v. Harper, which isn’t expected until summer, is not clear based on the line of questioning from Supreme Court justices on Wednesday. While all three liberal justices — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson — seem ready to rule against Moore, the six conservative justices weren’t as easy to read. Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch appeared to side with Moore while Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and John Roberts seemed to be on the fence.
A ruling can be expected around mid-June 2023.
Airport Workers Rally for Better Wages, Benefits
Cabin cleaners, wheelchair agents, trash collectors, and other Charlotte Douglas International Airport workers who are organizing with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) rallied in front of the airport on Friday to call on Congress to pass the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act, which will ensure all airport service workers have living wages and life-saving benefits such as paid time off and health care.
Labor representatives and supporters of the bill including SEIU, Communications Workers of America, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, and Raise Up joined the protest, which was one of 15 similar protests held countrywide.
“I had to go back to work a month after my baby was born, because I couldn’t afford to stay home without pay. Many of us have to work overtime or multiple jobs just to pay the bills,” said Morgani Brown, a cabin cleaner employed by the airline contractor JetStream, which does not offer paid maternity leave. “Because of our hard work, families can travel and reunite during the holidays, but we rarely have time to spend with our own loved ones.”
Morgani and other airport workers spoke about how unbearable working conditions, low pay and lack of benefits such as paid sick days are fueling high turnover rates. Some JetStream cabin cleaners say they often come into contact with vomit, blood and feces but are understaffed and are sometimes given just a few minutes to clean planes. Others report having to work in the extreme North Carolina heat during the summer without sufficient access to drinking water.
“We’re working in 90-degree weather, carrying bags of trash that can weigh 70 pounds,” said Shawn Montgomery, a cabin cleaner for Jetstream. “I’ve injured both of my knees coming down the steps and now I have to wear knee braces. Sometimes we don’t even have easy access to water. It can be dangerous when you’re walking in the heat out on the asphalt.”
The Good Jobs for Good Airports Act was introduced and sent to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in June.
CMPD Officer Arrested for DWI
CMPD on Wednesday announced the arrest of one of its own officers for driving while impaired after he was found drunk in his patrol car, which was parked in the grass of a highway off-ramp, at 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning by one of his coworkers.
A release stated that officer Peter Lombardo was found inside of his patrol car, which was his take-home vehicle, though he was not on duty nor in uniform at the time he was found. It was parked on an off-ramp from 277 leading to East 12th Street. Lombardo’s breathalyzer test found that he had a .17 blood-alcohol-content level, more than twice the legal limit.
The 14-year CMPD veteran has been placed on unpaid administrative leave while Internal Affairs investigates. CMPD policy states that any officer arrested with a BAC level above .14 will be cited for termination.
Man Arrested for Hate Crimes in Two Beatties Ford Incidents
A man has been arrested for assault, attempted murder and hate crimes in relation to two separate incidents that occurred over an eight-day span on the Beatties Ford Road corridor. On Monday morning, CMPD officers responded to a vandalism call in which someone threw a rock through a window at Marizetta Kerry Child Development Center. The rock reportedly had a note attached with hate speech written on it, stating that someone would be back to attack the children in the school within 24 hours.
MKCDC is associated with Friendship Baptist Memorial Church, which it is located across the street from on Beatties Ford Road. Later that day police reported that they believed the incident was related to a shooting that occurred on Sunday, Nov. 27, at the nearby Friendship Sportsplex in which a Mecklenburg County Park & Rec ranger was shot. The ranger is expected to recover.
Later Monday, police arrested 36-year-old Tyson Lee Corpening and charged him with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, two counts of ethnic intimidation, damage to property, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and threatening mass violence on educational property.