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Weekly News Roundup: Officials Defend Actions of Guards, Police in Atrium Incident

A still from the security footage that captured an incident in front of Atrium Health – Lincolnton in December. Watch the full video here.

Officials See No Problem with Assault of Teen at Hospital

Atrium Health officials and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office are standing behind the actions of their security guards and deputies, respectively, after WBTV reported this week on their violent response to a teenager whose mother was seeking help for him at a Lincoln County hospital during a mental health episode. 

According to the boy’s mother, Jessica Long, she took her 16-year-old son to Atrium Health – Lincolnton on Dec. 8, 2019, because she believed he needed mental health treatment. She motioned for a guard to help her bring the boy into the hospital because he was being resistant, and the guard spoke with the boy and his mother for under a minute before aggressively shoving him to the ground twice and pulling a taser on him. The boy had pushed his mother before the guard arrived, but had not acted aggressively toward the guard. 

Once a second guard arrived, the first one holstered his taser. After moving toward Long’s car, the second guard then grabbed the boy by the neck and slammed him to the ground. After that, Lincoln County sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene. The boy, who was bleeding from the mouth because of the body slam and struggle that followed, spit at one of the deputies, Justin Polson, who immediately punched the boy in the face. When another deputy pulled him off the boy, Polson aggressively approached Long as if he wanted to punch her, too, before another deputy took him to the ground in an effort to hold him back. 

The boy was not treated for his mental health episode, but was instead arrested and charged with assault on a police officer, a felony. 

Nick Oschner with WBTV spoke to Atrium Health System Nurse Executive Maureen Swick and Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam, both of whom defended the actions of their respective employees. “He had the right to stop that assault form occurring,” Beam told Oschner, though it’s clear from watching the video that the haymaker was not a necessary response from a law enforcement officer.


Mayor Lyles Endorses Bloomberg

Former New York City mayor and current Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg stopped by Charlotte on Thursday and picked up a meaningful endorsement along the way. During Bloomberg’s visit, Mayor Vi Lyles announced that she endorses him as her pick for president. 

“I am a better mayor because of Mike Bloomberg,” Lyles said on Thursday. “We’re a better city because of Mike Bloomberg. And I think this country can be a better country because of Mike Bloomberg.”

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles is sworn in for her second term with her hand on a bible held by her granddaughter. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Bloomberg awarded the city $2.5 million in 2018 to go toward planning and projects that will push back against climate change as part of the American Cities Climate Challenge.

The endorsement raised eyebrows among many who recognize that Bloomberg’s history on race and other issues is problematic, in part because of his longtime defense of the NYPD stop-and-frisk policy that he oversaw as mayor of New York City. He reversed his stance on the policy in November, shortly after joining the presidential race, apologizing for its harmful impacts on the black community during a speech at a Brooklyn church. 

Lyles’ daughter Aisha Alexander has already spoken out against the endorsement, tweeting on Thursday: “I have no words to describe how devastatingly disappointed I am in every Democratic mayor who has endorsed Michael Bloomberg, particularly the Black ones, and especially the ones closest to me … We don’t win, change the status quo, build any collective power of divested communities under attack by being easily seduced by the power of another billionaire who uses racist policies to oppress and profit.” 


McClatchy Declares Bankruptcy 

American newspaper chain McClatchy, which owns the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh’s News & Observer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday in an attempt to restructure more than $700 million in debt. A large part of the debt is due to pension obligations, which may be wiped out if the filing is approved by the court. 

Yes, this is a picture of the old Charlotte Observer building. We don’t have a pic of the new one. Call it nostalgia. (Photo by Billy Hathorn)

Though the Observer newsroom and those in 13 other states where McClatchy owns newspapers will run as normal during the bankruptcy proceedings, it’s expected that the company will be made private again and run by the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, which is a major lender and shareholder for the chain. Chatham Asset Management also owns American Media, which publishes tabloids like The National Enquirer. 

In a statement, McClatchy president and chief executive Craig Forman said that the reorganization plan will allow McClatchy to continue to “produce strong local journalism essential to the communities we serve.” We’ll see about that. 


Court Rules N.C. Illegally Segregates Those with Disabilities 

A judge ruled last week that the State of North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) violated the NC Persons with Disabilities Protection Act, which protects people with disabilities from discrimination. The ruling came in a case alleging that the system makes it easier for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) to be institutionalized than to find services and support in the community.

The case, Samantha R., et al. v. North Carolina, et. al, was filed in Wake County in May 2017. The suit claimed that North Carolina does not offer enough community-based support for people with I/DD, many of whom would prefer to live in their home communities but have been placed into institutions in order to receive services. In addition, long waiting lists for services and the lack of community services continue to put many people with IDD at risk for institutionalization.

The judicial order declares that the state and DHHS have violated a legal mandate — passed nearly 30 years ago — that people with disabilities may not be forced to live in institutional settings in order to get the services they need.

“We are pleased that the judge ruled in favor of people with disabilities having the choice to live in the community,” said Virginia Knowlton Marcus, CEO of Disability Rights North Carolina. “This order is the first step, and we will be actively working toward a remedy that helps more people with I/DD get the support they need in the home they choose. We hope that the state and DHHS will commit to do the same.”

The court will now make additional orders determining the means by which the state and DHHS will be required to remedy the situation.


No Killings in Queen City

On the “no news is good news” front, there were no murders in Charlotte this week. The city has seen eight murders this year, one less than the same time in 2019. 

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