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Deer shooting may get one year trial at airport

Smith Reynolds Airport officials will get a year for rifle shooting of deer on the airport property, under a plan endorsed by a city committee on Monday.

The 3-0 vote on the Winston-Salem City Council’s Public Safety Committee means that if the full council goes along, wildlife officers would be using rifles equipped with noise suppression to kill deer that are endangering aircraft safety by their presence on and around the runways.

Officials estimate there are some 15 or so deer living on the airport property that have the potential to cause catastrophic damage to an aircraft.

Current city ordinances allow only the use of shotguns to kill problem animals at the airport, but officials say shotguns shouldn’t be used for deer because they lack the precision and range needed to kill the animals.

On Monday, Andy Moore, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said that experts armed with rifles should be able to kill all the problem deer over a period of three to four weeks by shooting the animals one or two nights a week on the property.

Jerelyn Travick, who lives near the airport, voiced a concern for neighborhood safety.

“It seems the major concern is keeping the aircraft and the lives safe at the airport more than the residents of the community,” she said.

Travick wanted to know what kind of safety guarantees the airport officials could offer, as well as beginning and ending dates of the shootings and other details.

James Taylor, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, assured Travick that the city would get out the word before any shooting actually takes place.

The city has sent out more than 700 copies of a letter informing residents about the proposed elimination of the deer, giving them options to voice their views.

The letters were sent out under the signature of Northeast Ward Council Member Vivian Burke.

The adoption of the ordinance allowing the shootings would include a public hearing to allow comment as well.

Burke made the motion on Monday to endorse the ordinance change that would allow the rifle shooting of deer, but added a provision that would put a sunset on the new regulation after one year.

That limit, suggested by City Attorney Angela Carmon, would give the council the option to continue or eliminate the deer-removal program based on how things work out during the first year.

Although the measure passed committee, Taylor abstained and said he would comment further when the matter comes before the city council on Aug. 19.

Wildlife and airport officials say the deer-removal method has been safely carried out in settings more urban than Winston-Salem. Officials say the officers who carry out the shooting are experienced and skilled, and would be always making sure that no firing was done that might endanger someone.

The shooting is carried out by a three-member team that includes a driver, a spotter and a shooter. The deer are detected with infrared lighting, and night-vision scopes are used.

In wake of fatal shooting outside mall, Winston-Salem mayor promises thorough, transparent investigation

A week after Julius “Juice” Sampson was shot to death outside BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at Hanes Mall, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said he would ensure police conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into all possible motives.

But most of the 911 calls that might provide the public information about the shooting were sealed Friday by a Forsyth County judge. The judge said releasing the 911 calls would jeopardize the chances of a fair trial and possibly undermine an ongoing police investigation.

Race has emerged as an issue in the case. Winston-Salem police confirmed that Robert Anthony Granato, the man charged in Sampson’s death, used a racial epithet during an argument with Sampson inside the restaurant on Aug. 6. The two men continued the altercation outside the restaurant and police say that Granato pulled a gun and shot Sampson. Granato is white; Sampson is black.

Police have said both men used a racial epithet during the altercation but have declined to give any other details about the epithet, including what it was and who used it first.

A source close to the investigation has told the Journal that Granato used the racial epithet after Sampson defended a female bartender.

Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson said last week that investigators have not uncovered any evidence suggesting that the shooting was racially motivated. The state NAACP held a news conference last week, demanding a full investigation of all possible motives in the shooting.

“We can ensure that this will be a full, public and transparent investigation,” Joines said Monday.

Winston-Salem police have released limited information about the case, saying they do not want to hurt an active investigation or derail a successful prosecution.

Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court has sealed five 911 calls in the shooting. In his order, Hall said he reviewed the recordings and determined that the calls contain details about the shooting that are not known to the public and “that release of same could jeopardize the right of the State and the defendant to a fair trial and/or undermine an ongoing criminal investigation if disseminated to the public pre-trial.”

The city released two 911 calls — one that is a minute long and another that is about 30 seconds long. The calls are from two unidentified women who want to make sure that police are responding to the shooting. The woman in the minute-long call said she heard a popping sound and saw a man drop to the ground. In both calls, the dispatcher tells the women that police have received multiple calls about the shooting and that police are on route to the scene.

Joines made his statements during a news conference Monday morning in City Council Chambers. A number of elected officials stood behind him, including Council Members Denise D. Adams, Robert Clark, Dan Besse, Annette Scippio, John Larson and Jeff MacIntosh. Dave Plyler, chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, and Commissioner Flemming El-Amin also attended. State House Representatives Paul Lowe, Donny Lambeth, Evelyn Terry and Derwin Montgomery were also there.

The news conference follows pointed criticism from Arnita Miles, a former Winston-Salem police officer who, in a letter she sent to members of the Winston-Salem City Council last week, raised questions about the investigation.

Miles, a friend of Sampson’s who organized a vigil last Wednesday, criticized the police department for not interviewing several witnesses, including a retired state trooper shown in a witness’ Facebook video helping to subdue Granato immediately after the shooting.

She also said staff members from Olive Garden saw the shooting but have not been interviewed by police.

One of the witnesses she referenced told the Journal that he has since been interviewed twice about the shooting, including on Monday. That witness declined to comment further on the shooting.

Miles also raised questions about Winston-Salem police officers’ response time. She said a shift change before the shooting may have affected how long it took for police and paramedics to arrive. She also said there was a delay in police clearing the scene so that paramedics could get access to Sampson.

Dan Ozimek, the director of Forsyth County EMS, said from the time EMS was dispatched, it took paramedics a total of seven minutes to get to Sampson, who was declared dead at the scene.

In an emailed response to questions from the Journal on Friday, Thompson said she would not respond specifically to Miles’ letter and that she was focused on the police investigation.

In a video posted to Facebook by Evaristo Amador Guerrero, the first officer arrives while Granato is being subdued by witnesses. Another police car comes to the scene within two minutes.

Thompson was at the news conference but did not speak. She said afterward that shift changes have nothing to do with response times.

Members of the Winston-Salem City Council’s Public Safety Committee offered a full-throated defense of Thompson and her department during the committee meeting Monday night. Vivian Burke, who chaired the committee for decades, said she hasn’t talked much about the incident because she has “confidence in the Winston-Salem Police Department that they will do their jobs in a thorough way” and present the results to the council.

“We have a transparent police department,” Burke said. “A lot of us who have lived in this city a long time can go to eat at night and walk where we want to walk. I feel they are doing a good job.” Burke asked Thompson, who was at the meeting, to stand, and told her that “I am one of your cheerleaders” — a remark others on the panel endorsed.

At the press conference, Montgomery said people in the community, particularly black people, have every right to question the investigation, and pressure from the community helps ensure that the investigation is thorough. But he also urged people to be patient and to trust in the process.

The Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity also announced it had established a fund in Julius Sampson’s honor at Mechanics & Farmers Bank. The Rev. Tembila Covington, the conference’s president, said the money in the account will go toward supporting Sampson’s wife, Keyia Sampson, and her family.

“We want to be in support of her,” she said. “That was our initial message and that’s what we’re doing.”

Granato is being held in the Forsyth County Jail without bond on the murder charge. He is scheduled to appear in Forsyth District Court on Aug. 22.

Funeral services for Julius “Juice” Sampson Jr. are scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Union Baptist Church, 1200 Trade St.

photos by Andrew Dye/Journal  

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, flanked by numerous city, county and state officials, speaks at a press conference addressing the fatal shooting of Julius “Juice” Sampson on Monday in Winston-Salem.

The Triad isn't likely to become home to NC's DHHS headquarters. That's despite offers floated in state budget wrangling.

Forsyth and Guilford counties appear to no longer be under consideration for the relocated headquarters of the state Department of Health and Human Services and potentially 2,300 jobs, state legislators said Monday.

A potential move to the Triad surfaced July 9 as an early example of the political hardball surrounding Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the Republican state budget proposal: Forsyth and Guilford have Democratic legislators being offered special project funding in the budget in exchange for agreeing to support an override of the governor’s budget veto.

Joseph Kyzer, communications director for House speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said Monday in response to a public-records request from the N.C. Democratic Party that “I can be clear about House Republicans’ position: DHHS should move to Granville County just as DMV is being moved to the governor’s home region in Nash County.”

Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, said Monday that “there has been no conversation recently regarding DHHS relocation to Forsyth. I do not believe Forsyth is being considered any longer.”

Meanwhile, House GOP leadership opted not to conduct a vote Monday night on overriding Cooper’s budget veto or Medicaid expansion legislation House Bill 655. The next opportunity will be at 3 p.m. today as the stalemate reaches Day 48.

Kyzer also said Monday “the speaker will hold the veto override when the votes are secured, and we are steadfastly committed to passing the $24 billion state budget separately from any consideration of Medicaid expansion.”

Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake and House Minority leader, sent a letter Wednesday to GOP legislative leadership containing 51 of 55 Democratic signatures confirming their collective support for maintaining Cooper’s June 28 veto of the GOP budget.

Jackson’s letter tries to confirm what Jackson and Cooper have been saying since the veto was issued — that “the votes are not there to override.”

Moore has said there would be no action on HB665, a Medicaid expansion proposal, until the budget becomes law.

Governor’s OK a ‘sign of compromise’

The DHHS relocation project, inserted into the state budget, mentions only Granville. It could take up to five years and require $240 million in relocation spending to complete the project.

The other counties mentioned as relocation possibilities — Cumberland, Harnett and Wayne — also have Democratic legislators being enticed with special-project funding. Wayne County has Majority House leader John Bell as a county delegation member.

Landing the DHHS headquarters would trump all of those special-project offers.

Jackson said July 10 on the House floor that Cooper’s willingness to agree to a study on moving the DHHS headquarters is a sign of compromise and a good idea. Cooper’s initial budget proposal would move the headquarters to state-owned property on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh.

“I don’t believe this statement (from Moore’s office) definitively rules out any community as the potential home for DHHS workers,” said Mitch Kokai, senior policy analyst for Libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation.

“The Granville County site is the one spelled out in the state budget plan approved by the General Assembly. So it makes sense for speaker Tim Moore’s office to defend that provision.

“But the possibility of moving DHHS to another location has been the subject of behind-closed-doors speculation,” Kokai said. “I suspect that if Forsyth County Democrats committed to vote for the budget veto override, a Forsyth County DHHS location would be in play again.”

DMV move

The DHHS relocation proposal is similar to legislative plans to move the state Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters from Raleigh to Rocky Mount.

Ardis Watkins, government relations director for State Employees Association of N.C., said in a statement that “much like the DMV move, this would cause the state to lose many well-trained career employees.”

“But unlike the DMV move, this would add significant traffic to already congested roads. And we cannot imagine that citizens traveling those roads on a daily basis now would appreciate this.”

Republican legislative leaders acknowledge the potential of losing DHHS and DMV employees with the potential moves.

Sen. Ralph Hise, R-McDowell, told The News & Observer in July that legislative leaders are looking at state-owned land in Butner, as well as 527 acres that Granville officials propose to donate in a business park.

Cooper said in July that “it’s hard to know how serious that proposal is, even though it’s in their budget.”

“But we know for a fact that they are shopping the move of DHHS to various counties in order to get votes to override the veto.

“So, to me, that shows that they’re willing to make a significant change and move in state government in order just to get a vote to override this veto instead of negotiating,” he said.

Atrium Health officials to meet in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter this week. Two systems are creating a second medical school campus in Charlotte

The two main oversight groups for Atrium Health are coming to Winston-Salem on Wednesday to tour Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center facilities.

Atrium’s board of commissioners and the board of advisors for The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority will hold a special meeting at 10 a.m. in Wake Forest Biotech Place, 575 N. Patterson Ave.

The boards have to give a public notice when enough members are present to form a quorum.

Atrium and Wake Forest Baptist announced April 10 they have signed a memorandum of understanding “to create a next-generation academic health-care system.”

Highlighted in the potential partnership is the opening of a second Wake Forest School of Medicine campus in Charlotte — a long-sought goal of Atrium officials and Charlotte civic and elected officials.

The public notice about the meeting on Atrium‘s website is the first public notification since the announcement was made.

The two groups will review Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and Bowman Gray Center for Medical Education. Their stated purpose is “to give an overview of the research and innovation work taking place at those facilities.”

Atrium and Wake Forest Baptist did not return requests for comment Monday on what else is on the groups’ agenda. Wake Forest Baptist is the largest employer in Forsyth County with more than 13,000 workers.

The open-ended nature of negotiating a potential medical partnership between Wake Forest University and Atrium has raised concerns about the future of Wake Forest Baptist and its medical school in Winston-Salem.

Atrium said in an April 10 statement that the signing “signals the very beginning of in-depth discussions regarding the specific details of what our coming together could ultimately become.”

The groups said in a question-and-answer post April 10 that “the goal is that upon signing a definitive agreement together, Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University will immediately convene a team to start the work of bringing a modern, innovative, cost-effective and sustainable top-20 school of medicine to the Charlotte area.”

However, the groups have not ruled out a much larger collaboration during their period of exclusive negotiations.

Atrium is in the seventh of a 10-year contract to manage Cone Health’s operations. A similar management arrangement could be on the negotiating table with Wake Forest Baptist.

A spokeswoman for Wake Forest Baptist said at the time that the board and management would remain in place and that the medical school and main campus would remain in Winston-Salem.

Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, chief executive of Wake Forest Baptist and medical school dean, said April 10 that Winston-Salem would gain scientific and analytics jobs from the collaboration.

Freischlag signed in 2017 a five-year contract with Wake Forest Baptist. The Charlotte medical school campus would be completed in 2021 or 2022.

Metro appeal

The local concern about the Charlotte campus is that it could eventually draw resources from the Winston-Salem campus or even lure the medical school itself from Winston-Salem.

Baptist officials have said such scenarios were speculative and not based in fact.

Analysts weighed in on the local apprehensions.

“This is a valid concern,” Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University, said April 11.

“Still, the reputation and gravitas of Wake Forest University can’t easily be replicated. Winston-Salem should strongly play this card.”

Tony Plath, a retired finance professor at UNC Charlotte, said that there is one risk that would cause Wake’s medical school to relocate from Winston-Salem to Charlotte — student demand for the program.

Freischlag said there would be one medical school entity with two campuses, and that students will have their choice of which campus to attend.

Wake Forest Baptist has said it’s too early in the process to say how placements will be handled. That includes deciding whether candidates will apply to the medical school, get accepted and then chose a campus, or if they will be able to decide which campus they want to attend in the application process.

“If student demand for the medical school goes way up for placements here in Charlotte, and way down for placements in Winston-Salem, then that demand pattern places the location of the school at risk in Winston-Salem,” Plath said.

Winston-Salem likely does offer a lower cost of living than Charlotte for medical school students.

Freischlag said in April that she and the majority of the existing medical school faculty would remain in Winston-Salem, and that the Charlotte medical school would gain new faculty and utilize providers within the Atrium hospital system.