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Weekly News Roundup: Alleged Brooks Killer Claims Innocence in Court

Wreaths, flowers, and notes were left at Brooks’ Sandwich House during a vigil for Scott Brooks on Dec. 10. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Man Charged in Murder of Scott Brooks Makes First Court Appearance

Terry Conner Jr., who was arrested on Wednesday for the murder of Scott Brooks in December, appeared in court on Thursday and told the judge that he is “completely innocent.”

“To the victim’s family, I am sorry for their loss, but I had nothing to do with it,” he continued.

Police believe Conner is one of the two suspects caught on surveillance footage robbing Brooks as he opened his business early on the morning of Dec. 9, 2019, then shooting and killing him. Court documents on Thursday revealed that the thieves made off with $100. Detectives are still searching for a second suspect.

Police arrested 33-year-old Conner on Wednesday morning at a home on Countryside Drive in the Hidden Valley neighborhood. Conner has been charged with murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, first-degree kidnapping and possession of a firearm by a felon. Conner has a criminal record, including a conviction for shooting two people during a home invasion, for which he had recently been released from prison after serving about six years, according to CMPD Maj. Cam Selvey.

The Mecklenburg County judge told Conner on Thursday that he will have his chance to tell his side of the story in upcoming court appearances. There is still a $21,000 reward for any information on the identity and location of the second suspect. Police ask that those with information call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

Woman Shot Multiple Times During Robbery, Two Arrested

As Conner’s court appearance made headlines on Thursday, another family-run business in the NoDa area was targeted by armed assailants in broad daylight, and a woman was shot multiple times during the attempted robbery. Just after noon on Thursday, two men entered Mr. C’s Restaurant at the intersection of North Tryon Street and East Craighead Road with guns and demanded money.

According to CMPD, one of the suspects, 25-year-old Deonte Curry, began fighting with the employees during the robbery. During the fight, he shot 48-year-old Magda Chormovas multiple times. When police arrived, Curry was still fighting with the employees, including three of Chormovas’ family members, ages 51, 71 and 79. Another 38-year-old man was also working at the time of the robbery, and a 59-year-old man was in the restaurant when it occurred.

Police took Curry into custody and were able to find the second suspect, 24-year-old Trevon Ricks, shortly thereafter with the help of a K9 unit. The woman was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. There’s no word on her current status. Curry also had to be hospitalized before being taken to jail. Curry and Ricks have been charged with attempted first-degree murder, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Super Tuesday Knocks a Few Folks Out

North Carolina voters participated in presidential and local primaries for Super Tuesday on … you guessed it … Tuesday, and Joe Biden was the clear winner of the Democratic presidential race, taking 43% of the vote. The closest competitor to Biden was Bernie Sanders, who took more than 24% of the vote, followed by Mike Bloomberg with about 13% and Elizabeth Warren with nearly 10.5%. After struggling in primaries across the country on Tuesday, Warren and Bloomberg would drop out of the race before the week’s end.

NC Senator Mujtaba Mohammed (left) joins Queen City Nerve for a special on-location recording of ‘Nooze Hounds’ at Coco And The Director Coffee & Co-Lab. (Photo by Grant Baldwin) 

There weren’t many notable local primary races, though a few are worth noting. In the at-large Mecklenburg Board of County Commission race, incumbents Ella Scarborough and Pat Cotham skated to easy wins, while newcomer Leigh Altman edged out second-time candidate Ray S. McKinnon by less than 5,000 votes. McKinnon appeared as a guest on our latest Nooze Hounds podcast with UNC Charlotte senior Cade Lee, who ran against board chair George Dunlap in the District 3 primary. Lee lost that race, with Dunlap receiving about 75% of the vote.

Farmworker Union Files Lawsuit Against DOL, Rallies in Raleigh

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee rallied in front of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) North Carolina office in Raleigh on Thursday after filing a claim in federal court to compel the DOL to release records that they say will show violations of federal law in the sale of tobacco to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Universal Leaf Corporation, Altria or Alliance Once International, according to a release put out this week.

After filing the suit, farmworkers delivered a petition to the DOL offices calling on Secretary Eugene Scalia to intervene in what they believe is a pattern of the DOL taking the side of industry and employers over the interest of workers.

Protesters gather outside the U.S. Department of Labor North Carolina office in Raleigh on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Enlace Latino NC)

According to the release, since at least 2015, the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL has partnered with RJ Reynolds and other tobacco companies, taking what has amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in in-kind contributions. The release states that the companies’ investments have paid off in the form of praise for Reynolds American from DOL officials who simultaneously downplay humans rights abuses faced by farmworkers.

The lawsuit makes specific claims, such as the DOL’s willingness to grant tobacco growers access to guest-worker visas with applications that pay less than the minimum wage and the refusal to pursue “joint employer” cases that would hold employers accountable for violations when they avoid oversight by subcontracting.

“This is the second time in a year we have had to sue the Department of Labor, simply to get them to do their job,” said Baldemar Velasquez, FLOC president. “U.S. DOL is constantly talking about their lack of resources to enforce the law, but seems to have endless time and money to spend partnering with the tobacco industry to participate in multi-stakeholder exercises, provide training for growers and help companies like Reynolds American get good press for doing the bare minimum.”

On the day of the press conference, the DOL announced they are debarring and levying fines against a Florida-based labor contractor named Salvador Barajas, who was specifically named in the FLOC lawsuit, for underpaying or not paying workers on five North Carolina Farms. Barajas will have to pay $224,249 in wages to 194 workers, and also be responsible for $239,430 in civil penalties. He will be disbarred for three years.

“While [Thursday’s DOL announcement] is a sign we had an impact, it raises more questions than answers and it is also a shame that it takes such a public campaign to get U.S. DOL to do their job,” said FLOC vice-president Justin Flores. “This information was refused to the workers involved just a week or so ago and now because of pressure they released it to the public without consulting with workers involved or their union.”

Four Murders in Charlotte This Week

Three men were shot and killed in Charlotte in separate incidents this week, while another succumbed to injuries he suffered in a shooting during the previous week, bringing the total number of homicides in the city this year to 16.

Last Saturday, Feb. 29, at around 12:30 a.m., police responded to reports of a shooting near the intersection of North Cringler Street and Rozzelles Ferry Road and located evidence of a shooting, though they learned that two victims had already been transported to hospitals. One of those victims had suffered non-life-threatening injuries, while the other victim, 25-year-old Demarcus Mack, died in the hospital. On Tuesday, police arrested 27-year-old Tawan Rollins and 25-year-old Requan McCray and charged them both with Mack’s murder, among other charges.

On Sunday morning at around 11:30 a.m., officers responded to reports of a shooting on Burner Drive in the Sheffield Park neighborhood of east Charlotte and found two victims suffering from gunshot wounds. Both were transported to the hospital, where 49-year-old Reyno Melgar was later pronounced dead. No arrests have been made.

A 21-year-old man was arrested for the murder of his father, who was reported missing on Saturday and found dead in a wooded area in southeast Charlotte on Sunday. Police responding to reports of a body in the woods near the intersection Sardis Road North and Monroe Road at noon on Saturday found 55-year-old Van Thien Huynh dead of a gunshot wound. On Tuesday, they arrested Huynh’s son, 21-year-old Anthony Huynh, and charged him for the murder.

Rodarius Meaders was an aspiring rapper before he was killed on March 4.

On Wednesday at around 9:30 p.m., police responded to an apartment complex on Saratoga Drive and found 23-year-old Rodarius Meaders dead of a gunshot wound. According to the report, unknown suspects shot into the home Meaders was in and hit him. According to a GoFundMe organized by Meaders’ mother, his siblings witnessed his death. No arrests have been made in his murder.

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