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1 killed, 2 hurt in botched robbery, Winston-Salem police say. Two people jailed on weapons, assault, robbery charges.

A planned robbery turned into a deadly exchange of gunfire Tuesday night, leaving two people injured and one man dead, according to the Winston-Salem Police Department.

Police say Charvez Kent Brown, 25, went to the house at 1304 Peachtree St. sometime around 6 p.m., allegedly to sell drugs to Danielle Miller, 22. When Brown arrived, two men, Andres Harris and Ajian Lynell Jones, confronted Brown and attempted to rob him, according to police.

Shots were fired, and all three men were injured police said.

Harris, Jones and Miller all left the house in a car, which was heavily damaged in the shooting, police s aid.

Police later found Jones and Harris inside the car, which was on Interstate 40 near Hanes Mall Boulevard. Both had gunshot wounds. Forsyth County Emergency Medical Services took the two men to an area hospital, where Jones, 22, died. Harris’ wounds were not life-threatening, police said.

Brown went to his home in the 100 block of Green Point Drive, police said, before taking himself to a hospital to get his gunshot wounds treated.

As of 4 a.m. Wednesday, police had arrested Miller on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and aiding/abetting armed robbery. She was being held in the Forsyth County jail on a $50,000 bond.

Police arrested Harris, 19, on Wednesday afternoon on charges of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a stolen firearm.

Harris is being held in the jail with his bond set at $75,000.

Police said additional arrests and charges could be made, but investigators are not looking for any other suspects at this time.

Authorities ask that anyone with information about the robbery or the shooting contact the Winston-Salem Police Department at 336-773-7700 or to Crime Stoppers at 336-727-2800. Crime Stoppers may also be contacted through its Facebook page, Crime Stoppers of Winston-Salem. All Crime Stoppers tips are anonymous.

Winston-Salem police seize 37 guns, make 27 arrests as part of crackdown on violent gun crime

Winston-Salem authorities say they have strived in recent weeks to get a handle on the criminal gun violence that has plagued the city in 2019.

Gun-related crimes are up 36.5% from the same time in 2018, according to Lt. Amy Gauldin of the Winston-Salem Police Department. That includes misdemeanors, such as carrying a concealed weapon, as well as more serious crimes, up to and including homicide.

In response, the police department initiated the Violent Firearms Task Force, headed by Gauldin, to get a better grip on violent crime and getting guns off the streets.

The task force is comprised of members from the department’s gang unit and the violent firearms investigation team. Gauldin said it has seen success in its first two weeks of action.

The task force seized 37 guns and arrested 27 people on gun-related charges in the previous two weeks, Gauldin said. Confiscating 37 guns in such a short period is significant and more than what police would normally seize in a similar time frame, she said.

“A lot of times there’s a few offenders responsible for a large amount of crime,” Gauldin said. “Hopefully by identifying those offenders and getting them in custody, we can get those guns off the street and get those numbers back down.”

Gauldin said some of this year’s gun violence is gang-related but she stopped short of delving into specific instances.

“There is some gang correlation with a small number of incidents, and there’s also some that are isolated incidents that stem from an argument that’s not related to gangs at all,” Gauldin said.

The task force patrols in areas that Gauldin describes as “high crime,” chosen by examining crime trends in the area.

Those areas are subject to change, she said, based on where gun crimes are taking place.

Part of the task force policing involves the use of the National Integrated Ballistics Network, a database of ballistic information that can link shootings by comparing recovered shell casings from one shooting with shell casings in other shootings in order to find any possible link.

As of Gauldin’s interview Tuesday morning, there had been no homicides in the city over the previous two weeks.

However, one person was killed and two other were injured in a robbery turned shooting Tuesday night.

Gauldin did not directly attribute the lack of homicides to the police department’s increased focus on removing guns from city streets. But she said that one focus of the task force is to reduce gun-related deaths.

“The task force is working these high-crime areas, and we’re hoping to reduce death and crime simultaneously,” she said.

Grammy nod for Winston-Salem native Joe Troop and his band, Che Apalache

Winston-Salem native Joe Troop and his band, Che Apalache, have been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Folk Album category for “Rearrange My Heart,” the Recording Academy announced Wednesday.

Produced by bluegrass superstar Bela Fleck, “Rearrange My Heart,” was a critically acclaimed album that showed off Che Apalache’s unique and infectious sound, which blends Appalachian and Latin American musical styles. Troop, a graduate of Reynolds High School, wrote several songs on the album.

Fresh off a four-month tour that took the band all over the country, Troop said he was elated to hear the news.

“We are surprised. No one knows us from Adam’s house cat,” Troop said Wednesday. “This is the story of the little band that could.”

Other nominees in the category include Patty Griffin, Andrew Bird, Joy Williams and Gregory Alan Isavok.

Che Apalache is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Troop moved in 2010. A multi-instrumentalist and singer, Troop formed the band with some of his string-music students, Pau Barjau (banjo), Franco Martino (guitar) and Martin Bobrik (mandolin).

The band first came to the United States in 2017 where it performed at fiddlers conventions in Galax, Va., and Clifftop, W.Va. It has since gained a national following for a sound that has been dubbed “Latin Grass.”

In the tradition of folk-singing rabble-rousers Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, Che Apalache has also earned a reputation for being political, especially when it comes to the politics of immigration, on songs such as “The Wall” and “The Dreamer,” which was inspired by undocumented immigrants living in North Carolina. Troop has been outspoken in his support of keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that allows “Dreamers” to stay in the United States.

Moisés Serrano, a Yadkin County native who has spoken openly about his undocumented status, is featured on the accompanying video to “The Dreamer.”

Troop said the Grammy nomination gives the band a platform to continue to sing a message of unity.

“We’re going to try to use our platform to help DACA recipients and to sing the songs of people who deserve a better life, not just bask in the glory of it,” Troop said.

The Grammy Awards will be Jan. 26. Troop said he hopes the band can attend the ceremony in Los Angeles.

Other area nominees include Rhiannon Giddens for Best American Roots Music Performance for “I’m On My Way,” with Francesco Turrisi.

Trump directed Ukraine quid pro quo, key witness says

WASHINGTON — Ambassador Gordon Sondland declared to impeachment investigators Wednesday that President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani explicitly sought a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine, leveraging an Oval Office visit for political investigations of Democrats. But he also came to believe the trade involved much more.

Besides the U.S. offer of a coveted meeting at the White House, Sondland testified it was his understanding the president was holding up nearly $400 million in military aid, which Ukraine badly need with an aggressive Russia on its border, in exchange for the country’s announcement of the investigations.

Sondland conceded that Trump never told him directly the security assistance was blocked for the probes, a gap in his account that Republicans and the White House seized on as evidence the president did nothing wrong. But the ambassador said his dealings with Giuliani, as well as administration officials, left him with the clear understanding of what was at stake.

“Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’” Sondland asked. “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

The rest, he said, was obvious: “Two plus two equals four.”

Later Wednesday, another witness undercut a main Republican argument — that there could be no quid pro quo because Ukraine didn’t realize the money was being held up. The Defense Department’s Laura Cooper testified that Ukrainian officials started asking about it on July 25, which was the day of Trump’s phone call with the country’s new president when Trump first asked for “a favor.”

Her staff received an email, Cooper said, from a Ukrainian Embassy contact asking “what was going on with Ukraine’s security assistance.”

She said she could not say for sure that Ukraine was aware the aid was being withheld but “it’s the recollection of my staff that they likely knew.”

Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union and a major donor to Trump’s inauguration, was the most highly anticipated witness in the House’s impeachment inquiry into the 45th president of the United States.

In often-stunning testimony, he painted a picture of a Ukraine pressure campaign that was prompted by Trump himself, orchestrated by Giuliani and well-known to other senior officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Sondland said he raised his concerns about a quid pro quo for military aid with Vice President Mike Pence — a conversation that a Pence adviser vigorously denied.

Pompeo also dismissed Sondland’s account.

However, Sondland said, “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

The ambassador said that he and Trump spoke directly about desired investigations, including a colorful cellphone call this summer overheard by others at a restaurant in Kyiv.

Trump himself insists daily that he did nothing wrong and the Democrats are just trying to drum him out of office.

As the hearing proceeded, he spoke to reporters outside the White House. Reading from notes written with a black marker, Trump quoted Sondland quoting Trump to say the president wanted nothing from the Ukrainians and did not seek a quid pro quo.

“I want nothing, I want nothing,” insisted the president, who often exhorts Americans to “read the transcript” of the July phone call in which he appealed to Ukraine’s leader for “a favor” — the investigations.

He also distanced himself from his hand-picked ambassador, saying he didn’t know him “very well.”

A month ago, he called Sondland “a really good man and a great American.”

The impeachment inquiry focuses significantly on allegations that Trump sought investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son — and the discredited idea that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election — in return for the badly needed military aid for Ukraine and the White House visit.

In Moscow on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was pleased that the “political battles” in Washington had overtaken the Russia allegations, which are supported by the U.S. intelligence agencies.

“Thank God,” Putin said, “no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

Sondland said that conditions on any potential Ukraine meeting at the White House started as “generic” but more items were “added to the menu including — Burisma and 2016 election meddling.”

Burisma is the Ukrainian gas company where Biden’s son Hunter served on the board. And, he added, “the server,” the hacked Democratic computer system.

During questioning in the daylong session, Sondland said he didn’t know at the time that Burisma was linked to the Bidens but today knows “exactly what it means.”

He and other diplomats didn’t want to work with Giuliani. But he and the others understood that Giuliani “was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president.”

He also came to understand that the military aid hinged on the investigations, though Trump never told him so directly.

Sondland, a wealthy hotelier, has emerged as a central figure in an intense week in the probe that is featuring nine witnesses testifying over three days.

The envoy appeared prepared to fend off scrutiny over the way his testimony has shifted in closed-door settings, saying “my memory has not been perfect.” He said the State Department left him without access to emails, call records and other documents he needed in the inquiry. Republicans called his account “the trifecta of unreliability.”

Still, he did produce new emails and text messages to bolster his assertion that others in the administration were aware of the investigations he was pursuing for Trump from Ukraine.

Sondland insisted, twice, that he was “adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid” for Ukraine. “I followed the directions of the president.”

The son of immigrants who he said escaped Europe during the Holocaust, Sondland described himself as a “lifelong Republican” who has worked with officials from both parties, including Biden.

Dubbed one of the “three amigos” pursuing Ukraine policy, Sondland disputed that they were running some sort of “rogue” operation outside official U.S. policy. He produced emails and texts showing he, former special envoy Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry kept Pompeo and others apprised of their activity. One message from Volker said, “Spoke w Rudy per guidance from S.” He said, “S means the secretary of state.”

Democratic Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California said, “The knowledge of this scheme was far and wide.”

Schiff warned Pompeo and other administration officials who are refusing to turn over documents and testimony to the committee “they do so at their own peril.” He said obstruction of Congress was included in articles of impeachment during Watergate.

The top Republican on the committee, Devin Nunes of California, decried the inquiry and told the ambassador, “Mr. Sondland, you are here to be smeared.”

Nunes renewed his demand to hear from the still-anonymous whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy led the House to open the impeachment inquiry.

Sondland’s hours of testimony didn’t appear to sway Trump’s GOP allies in the Senate, who would ultimately be jurors in an impeachment trial.

Mike Braun of Indiana said the president’s actions “may not be appropriate, but this is the question: Does it rise to the level of impeachment? And it’s a totally different issue and none of this has.”

“I’m pretty certain that’s what most of my cohorts in the Senate are thinking and I know that’s what Hoosiers are thinking — and most of middle America.”