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Weekly News Roundup: CATS Bus Driver Fired After Shootout

...and four more stories from May 21-27, 2023

A CATS bus driver can be seen pointing a gun toward the rear of the bus where the passenger had fled after originally being shot
A CATS bus driver fires on passenger who pulled a gun on him while he was driving.

CATS Bus Driver Fired After Shootout with Passenger

CATS has fired a driver who engaged in a shootout with a passenger on a bus in Steele Creek last week. On Friday, CATS released surveillance footage of the incident, which occurred on May 18 on Outlets Boulevard outside of the Charlotte Premium Outlets.

The footage, acquired by WBTV and posted in full on Friday, shows that the passenger pulled a gun on the driver during an argument that began when he asked to be dropped off somewhere other than a sanctioned stop. The CATS bus driver, David Fullard, tells the passenger, 22-year-old Omarri Tobias, to go back to the seating area, to which Tobias responds by threatening Fullard, goading the driver into touching him so he can “pop” Fullard and claim self-defense. He then pulls his gun and cocks it while still standing behind Fullard.

When Fullard sees Tobias’ gun, he pulls his own and opens fire. The two exchange shots through a safety partition meant to separate drivers and passengers. Fullard continues to fire on Tobias as the latter retreats to the back of the bus. Both men eventually leave the CATS bus, at which time Fullard fires a final shot.

Two passengers can be seen ducking for cover in the footage. Neither were harmed. Fullard was reportedly shot in the arm while Tobias suffered life-threatening injuries after being shot in the stomach, though he’s expected to fully recover.

Tobias has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injuries, communicating threats, and carrying a concealed firearm. Fullard is not facing any criminal charges, though he was fired from his position at CATS, which cited policy prohibiting drivers or other employees from carrying weapons while on the job.

CATS employees have been calling for better safety measures since the murder of CATS bus driver Ethan Rivera during a road rage incident in February 2022.

Students Plan March in Downtown Waxhaw

Students in Union County are organizing an LGBTQ+ Pride Rally at the Water Tower Community Corner in Waxhaw this afternoon. Faced with ongoing attacks targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ youth in Union County schools, students say they plan to demand action from the Union County Board of Education (UCBOE).

The UCBOE in April introduced revisions to its policy 5-01, Selection of Instructional Materials, passing the newly revised policy during a meeting on May 2. Updates to the policy restrict classroom displays to “materials which represent the United States, the State of North Carolina, the school name and mascot and/or tie directly to the curriculum.” Opponents say school board members designed the policy to ban displays of pride flags, Black Lives Matter content, and other displays that uplift marginalized student groups.

Regan Shaw, parent of a Union County student and PFLAG member, says that language in the policy also targets books in school libraries with LGBTQ+ characters for removal. Shaw and others believe the new policy is a direct attack on LGBTQ+ young people, educators, and families, and echoes a national trend of organized hate groups using misinformation to censor the voices and stories of people with marginalized identities in public schools.

“Our schools should protect all students and respect all families — including queer and trans students and families — so they can learn and thrive in a safe environment,” read a release from Equality NC voicing its solidarity with student organizers this week. “LGBTQ+ youth already face discrimination in their daily lives and often turn to affirming teachers and school staff to support them in the classroom and beyond.”

The rally is scheduled to take place from 1-3 p.m. and will feature speeches by students, parents and community members.

Gov. Roy Cooper Declares State of Education Emergency

In a special address on Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper declared that public education in North Carolina is facing a state of emergency thanks to Republican efforts to gut it from the inside.

In his address, Cooper outlined extreme legislation in the NC General Assembly that would cripple the state’s public education system and urged North Carolinians to contact their legislators.

“It’s clear that the Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education,” Cooper said. “I’m declaring this a state of emergency because you need to know what’s happening. If you care about public schools in North Carolina, it’s time to take immediate action and tell them to stop the damage that will set back our schools for a generation.”

In recent weeks, Republicans have pushed sweeping legislation that Cooper said would cause public schools to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, exacerbate the state’s teacher shortage and bring political culture wars into the classrooms.

Cooper continued to highlight the specific issues behind his declaration throughout the week, beginning with a visit to the Washington Gifted and Talented Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh on Tuesday, where he raised the alarm about Republican-backed legislation that would increase taxpayer funding for private school vouchers, resulting in an estimated decline of more than $203 million in funding for public schools by the 2026-’27 school year.

During a visit to Huntingtowne Farms Elementary School in Charlotte on Wednesday, Cooper emphasized the effects of legislation proposed by Republican legislators that would worsen North Carolina’s teaching shortage and provide veteran teachers with only $250 in salary increases spread over two years, an increase that barely meets inflation rates.

Parents Speak Against Rezoning Plan at BOE Meeting

More than 100 people signed up to speak at Tuesday night’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education (CMS BOE) meeting, most of whom were upset about plans to adjust boundaries and feeder patterns at 27 south Charlotte schools effective next year as the result of new schools opening in the area.

A new high school is being built on 12218 North Community House Road to relieve overcrowding at Ardrey Kell, Myers Park, and South Meck high schools. That school is scheduled to open in the 2024-’25 school year. A new south-county relief middle school site plan is also in the works to relieve overcrowding at Community House, Jay M. Robinson, and Rea Farms middle schools. The earliest the new middle school will open is the 2025-26 school year.

According to the CMS website, the BOE decides on Student Assignment Policy based on community input as well as four priorities, equally weighted: minimizing home-to-school distance; keeping feeder patterns together; creating socioeconomically diverse schools; and maximizing utilization of district buildings and facilities.

Superintendent Dr. Crystal Hill’s recommendation for a new boundaries map was released on May 15 and updated with a second draft on May 23, the same day dozens of parents spoke passionately about the plan at the BOE meeting. Many were concerned about the potential for splitting certain communities and neighborhoods in south Charlotte.

The BOE vote to finalize the plan is scheduled for Tuesday, June 6.

CMPD Releases Footage of 2022 Police Shooting

CMPD released body-worn camera footage on Tuesday depicting a shootout between police officers and 45-year-old Kevin Boston that ended in Boston’s death last June. The incident occurred on Tuckaseegee Road on the afternoon of June 26, 2022, following a shoplifting call in which employees at a nearby Food Lion alleged Boston brandished a gun while attempting to leave the store with stolen goods.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations has conducted its criminal investigation into the shooting, sending the results to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, which decided not to prosecute any officers in the shooting.

CMPD admitted Tuesday that their original claims that Boston shot first during the interaction have not been proven by either the NCSBI investigation or the one carried out by the department itself. Footage shows the opposite, as the arm in which Boston is holding a handgun is pointed down to his side as he walks down the sidewalk when officers open fire.

“At the conclusion of the investigation, CMPD cannot definitively state that the suspect fired first,” read a CMPD release on Tuesday. “However, this does not change the fact that officers perceived an imminent lethal threat and acted appropriately to defend their lives and the lives of others in the area.”

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