Travis Price Cleared in Controversial Rock Hill Arrest
At a press conference in Rock Hill on Wednesday, Rock Hill Police Department Chief Chris Watts admitted to wrongdoing by officers in his department in relation to the arrest of Travis Price during an incident that led to protests in the South Carolina town last month. Charges against Price for hindering police have now been dismissed and expunged from his record, according to city solicitor Chisa Putnam.
The original police statement following Travis’ arrest claimed that he approached Rock Hill police as they were arresting his brother Ricky Price and tried to snatch property that they had seized during that arrest, then became violent toward officers. Body-cam footage released by the department Wednesday showed that officers had told Travis he could retrieve the property, then attacked him when he attempted to do so.
Watts announced Wednesday that Rock Hill police officer John Moreno, who was the lead aggressor in Travis’ arrest, has been fired from the force. Moreno apologized to the community during Wednesday’s press conference. Solicitor Kevin Brackett also announced that he has directed the SC State Law Enforcement Division to file third-degree assault and battery charges against Moreno.
Footage of the June 23 arrest, filmed and posted to social media by bystanders, spurred protests in Rock Hill due to the police officers’ violent behavior, as they could be seen punching the men with a K9 unit barking just inches from them.
Watts said on Wednesday that he does not believe that officers violated any department policies in the arrest of Ricky Price, claiming that punching Ricky in the face was “appropriate” use of force, and while “it was not the best choice” to release the K9 unit during the arrest, it did not violate policy.
CMS Board Settles Funding Conflict with County Commission
The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education (BOE) announced on Wednesday that the two sides had come to an agreement over funding for fiscal year 2022.
The county originally planned to withhold $56 million from the school district until the BOE could present an actionable plan to fix inequities within CMS, but after a statutorily required mediation process between the two boards, the county announced it will release $56 million of the restricted allocation to CMS plus provide an additional $11 million in operating funds for the coming school year.
As part of the agreement, the BOE agreed to place an increased focus on improving student outcomes through the Student Outcomes-Focused Governance model, and to work with a consultant on the implementation. The model includes clearly defining goals to improve student outcomes, redesigning board meetings to focus on the goals, and conducting annual evaluations of the superintendent based on those goals. The BOE will share information on the model in an upcoming facilitated workshop with the BOCC.
The BOE will also make School Improvement Plans available on their website and will update those plans with new data this fall and annually thereafter. The School Improvement Plans will include identified goals, actions, and progress toward achieving those goals for all low-performing schools. These plans will be made available to the public on an ongoing basis, in a single location on the CMS website. In addition, the site will provide the annual State of the School Report with opportunities and challenges for each improvement plan. The BOE has also made the data and annual targets that support their strategic plan available on their website.
Public Health Director To Retire at End of Year
After nearly four years as Mecklenburg County’s Public Health Director — including spending well over a year leading the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic — Gibbie Harris announced this week that she will retire at the end of this year. County Manager Dena Diorio made the announcement publicly during the Board of County Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, adding that current Deputy Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington will become the new Public Health Director when Harris retires.
Washington will take on the Public Health Director role at the start of 2022. Over the past 16 months, he has served as second-in-command for the department, providing oversight and direction to internal operations in addition to supporting all aspects of COVID-19 response with direct oversight of communications and outreach, epidemiology, testing and various aspects of the vaccine distribution, according to a release from the county following Harris’ announcement.
Washington also serves as a technical expert regarding public health practice, epidemiology, and the control of diseases and adverse health conditions internally and represents the department in work with external health stakeholders, local, state and federal government officials and the media.
COVID Metrics Mixed
Following a week with no COVID-19 deaths at the end of June, four Mecklenburg County residents died from COVID-19 during the past week. Other metrics were mixed this week, with the test-positivity rate continuing to climb slightly.
According to the latest data from Mecklenburg County Public Health, released Friday, there had been 114,864 total cases of COVID-19 and 985 deaths related to the coronavirus in the county to that point, an increase of 380 cases and four 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 3.9% test-positivity rate over the previous week, a slightly increasing trend compared to the previous two weeks. On June 11, the test positivity rate stood at 1.9%. On average, there were 57 new laboratory-confirmed infections per day over the past week, also an increasing trend compared to previous weeks. On average, 41 people were hospitalized on any given day due to COVID-19 over the past week, a stable trend.
MCPH also reported on Friday that 49% of the total population of Mecklenburg County (547,873 residents) had been at least partially vaccinated as of Wednesday, while 46% of Mecklenburg County’s total population (507,849 residents) had been fully vaccinated. That puts the county at the bottom of the ladder compared to other cities and counties of similar size, according to the U.S COVID Risk & Vaccine Tracker.
Teen Killed in Broad-Day South End Shooting
There were three homicides in Charlotte this week, bringing the total number of illegal killings in the city this year to 57. At approximately 3:41 p.m. on Sunday, July 4, police responded to a shooting call at the intersection of Remount Road and South Boulevard in the South End neighborhood and found 16-year-old Travell Moore suffering from a gunshot wound. MEDIC transported Moore to the hospital, where he later died. Police have charged a 30-year-old man with Moore’s murder, along with shooting into an occupied vehicle and assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill.
Just before 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, police responded to a shooting near the New Shiloh Baptist Church on Elmin Street in the Pinecrest neighborhood of west Charlotte and found a woman dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Her name has not yet been released.
In a separate incident later that day, at around 11:44 p.m., police responded to a shooting call on Turtle Neck Lane in the Hickory Ridge neighborhood of east Charlotte and found two victims suffering from gunshot wounds. MEDIC pronounced 18-year-old Dekoven Ware dead at the scene.
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