Five Officers Cited for Termination for Role in Harold Easter’s Death
CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings announced on Friday that the department’s internal review board has cited five officers for termination for their involvement in the death of Harold Easter, who died after suffering a medical emergency while in police custody in January. The department will turn those citations over to the Civil Service Board, which has the power to terminate officers from the force.
Harold Easter lost consciousness shortly after being arrested for a suspected drug transaction near Greenville Park on Jan. 23. A transcript of body-camera and surveillance footage from the arrest shows that officers witnessed him swallowing what is believed to be cocaine as they took him into custody. Officers refused to give Easter any water following his arrest, even as he begged for it and told them that he was dehydrated. Shortly after arriving at the department, Easter began clawing at a table, then collapsed to the floor and had a seizure, at which time officers called for MEDIC. Easter died in the hospital three days later.
On Sept. 11, Superior Court Judge Carla Archie ordered all video associated with the Harold Easter case to be released to the public on Oct. 1. The five officers involved with the arrest were placed on administrative leave with pay on Jan. 24. Their names were Sgt. Nicolas Vincent and officers Brentley Vinson, Michael Benfield, Michael Joseph and Shon Sheffield. Vinson was the officer who shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in 2016, leading to the Charlotte Uprising. Jennings would not confirm whether the same five officers were the ones cited for termination.
In response to the internal review of the incident, CMPD revised four directives, which were implemented on March 18. Under the prior directive, officers were required to make visual observation of a subject in custody at least every 15 minutes. The policies have since been updated to require officers to maintain continuous observation of a subject in custody.
On Jan. 31, the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) announced their own independent investigation into Harold Easter’s death. The SBI has since turned the findings of their investigation over to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, and the criminal investigation is still pending.
City Releases Rendering, Updates on Cross Charlotte Trail
City officials on Friday released a new rendering along with updates on the construction of different segments of the Cross Charlotte Trail, a more-than-30-mile trail and greenway system that will stretch from Pineville through Uptown and to the UNC Charlotte campus and Cabarrus County line.
The city gave the following updates:
- 7th Street to 10th Street (construction) – Construction will start this month and is expected to finish next summer.
- North Davidson Street to Matheson Avenue (bid) – Real estate acquisition is underway for this segment and is expected to go out to bid early next year. Construction is expected to start in mid-2021 and finish sometime in 2022.
- Matheson Avenue to East Craighead Road/East Craighead Road to North Tryon Street (design) – Both of these segments are in design. Design is expected to be complete by the end of the year, followed by real estate acquisition. During this phase, the city acquires the property rights needed to build and maintain the improvements identified during the design phase. City real estate agents will reach out to affected property owners to answer questions and address any concerns. Once design approaches 50% completion in the coming months, the project team will host an online public meeting.
- North Tryon Street to Orr Road (Hidden Valley)/Orr Road to Rocky River Road (design) – The project team recently shared a presentation and survey to get feedback on how these trail segments will be used, top destinations and suggestions as they finalize the design.
- Mallard Creek Church Road to Pavilion Boulevard/Pavilion Boulevard to the Cabarrus County Line (planning) – The project team shared a presentation and survey to get feedback from the community back in May. They are reviewing the feedback, which will be incorporated into a planning report. The team is proceeding with 30% design plans.
Charlotte Leaders Call for Renewal of Violence Against Women Act
Sunday marked the 26th anniversary of the passing of the Violence Against Women Act, landmark legislation that served to protect women from domestic violence and sexual assault. On the anniversary, a group led by U.S. Congresswoman Alma Adams of Charlotte pointed out the significance of the act in this year’s presidential election, as the law was written by Democratic nominee Joe Biden in 1994 and allowed to lapse by current President Donald Trump.
In a release on Sunday, the group emphasized that Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, have both repeatedly called on the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate and President Trump to reauthorize VAWA, which is credited for bringing about a 64% decrease in overall intimate-partner violence between 1994 and 2010.
“As a survivor of domestic violence myself, I know the work that Joe Biden has done for women has been critical to the fight for women’s safety and equality,” Adams said in a statement. “COVID-19 has highlighted the gender and racial disparities that existed far before the pandemic hit. There are no women’s policies — in order to achieve gender equity, the inequity that women face must be addressed in every single policy.”
Charlotte City Council member Dimple Ajmera joined the call for voters to consider Biden’s record on intimate-partner violence while casting their vote this November.
“Joe Biden led the fight to pass the Violence Against Women Act and has put forth proposals to strengthen and reauthorize the protections that it guarantees,” Ajmera said. “He has been vocal about the long overdue need to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and as President, he will fight to pass a strengthened VAWA reauthorization within his first 100 days. Women, especially women of color, have been forgotten by the current administration, and it’s time for a change in leadership. It’s time for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies at 87
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at her home on Friday night at the age of 87. She had been battling metastatic pancreatic cancer. Ginsberg was appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton in 1993.
Ginsburg’s death just six weeks before the presidential election touched off fiery debate about who will replace her, as current President Donald Trump will almost certainly move to appoint a replacement before the November election. Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Senate Republicans refused to even give a hearing to President Barack Obama’s candidate for replacement, Merrick Garland, forcing the country to wait nine months until a new president was selected. It’s not expected that the Republican-led Senate will have the same concerns this time around.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has already stated that the Senate will move to vote on a nominee before November. The vetting, hearing and voting process could very well take more than six weeks, however.
In a statement Friday night, U.S. Congresswoman Alma Adams of Charlotte mourned Ginsburg: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the conscience of the Court and one of the greatest fighters American women have ever had. Justice Ginsburg’s dissents spoke for people of conscience with a righteous anger and moral clarity that is too often missing from the public sphere. Her lifetime of advocacy for women and equality extended far beyond her service on the bench, and all Americans — not just women — owe her an incalculable debt for removing the foot of the patriarchy off our necks, allowing women to breathe free in a country that still does not always see us as equal. Though she is irreplaceable, Justice Ginsburg will have a successor. She would be the first person to say her successor should be a woman who believes, as she did, that ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made.'”
Man Killed in College Downs
A 35-year-old man was killed in the College Downs neighborhood near UNC Charlotte on Monday, becoming the 83rd murder victim in Charlotte this year. Police responded to an armed robbery call on Sandburg Avenue in University City at around 4:18 p.m. on Monday and found Michael Bibb dead of a gunshot wound. No arrests have been made in the case.