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Journal, other media organizations want to overturn judge’s order that sealed recordings

A month after a Winston-Salem man was shot outside a restaurant at Hanes Mall, a Forsyth County judge will determine whether to release 911 recordings, which are typically a public record, that were made at the time of the shooting.

Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court signed an order Aug. 9 to seal five 911 recordings in connection with the Aug. 6 fatal shooting of Julius Randolph “Juice” Sampson Jr., a 32-year-old married father of three who worked at the Supreme Legacy Barbershop in Hanes Mall.

Robert Anthony Granato, 22, of Cloverhurst Court in Winston-Salem has been charged with felony murder and misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon while or after consuming alcohol in Sampson’s death.

Hall said in the order that he sealed the 911 recordings because making them public could jeopardize the ongoing investigation and hurt Granato’s chances of a fair trial. Authorities did release two 911 recordings after Hall’s order. Those recordings were from two women who wanted to make sure police were aware of the shooting. A dispatcher tells the callers that police are on their way.

The Winston-Salem Journal and three other news organizations — WXII, WFMY and WGHP — filed a motion in Forsyth Superior Court on Aug. 23 seeking to overturn Hall’s order.

Hall is scheduled to hear the motion at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 5 in Courtroom 5A.

Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill said Friday that the legal system’s Rules of Professional Responsibility prohibit him from commenting on a pending case.

Winston-Salem police have released few details about the shooting. What police have publicly said is that police officers went to BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at 3:41 p.m. Aug. 6, where they found Sampson lying in the parking lot. Police said that Granato and Sampson had an altercation inside the restaurant that spilled outside and that at some point Granato shot Sampson.

Sampson died at the scene.

According to a search warrant, police said Granato and his friend, Landon Smith, were told by the restaurant that the two men would no longer be served alcohol and that they had to leave. The two men became belligerent to a female bartender who told them she could not serve them alcohol, and Sampson asked Granato to stop bothering her. The two men began arguing inside the restaurant and were fighting outside when Granato pulled a handgun from his waistband and shot Sampson in the chest, according to the warrant.

Race soon emerged as an issue in the shooting because people posted on social media that Granato, who is white, used a racial epithet against Sampson, who is black. People also pointed to a 2014 picture on Granato’s Instagram account that shows him and a friend wearing shirts that read “Murica” and using the OK hand signal that became associated with white supremacy after 2017.

A day after the shooting, Police Chief Catrina Thompson said investigators did not uncover any evidence that the shooting was racially motivated. But she also said that both men used racial epithets during the altercation. She declined to provide any clarifying information about the circumstances in which the racial epithets were used, including which man used one first and what it was.

The North Carolina NAACP and Mayor Allen Joines have held separate news conferences. The NAACP has demanded a full and transparent investigation into all possible motives for the shooting. On the same day that Joines promised a transparent investigation, the order sealing the five 911 recordings was file-stamped by the clerk’s office.

A video posted on Facebook showed the immediate aftermath of the shooting, and Arnita Miles, a former Winston-Salem police officer and a friend of Sampson’s, sent a letter to city council members, raising questions about the police investigation and the response times of police officers and paramedics to the scene.

According to the Aug. 23 motion by the media organizations, the process through which Hall signed the order was unconstitutional because the organizations were not notified of a hearing and were not given a chance to be heard on the possible order to seal the recordings.

The attorneys representing the media organizations — Mike Tadych, Amanda Martin and Hugh Stevens, — also object to what they call an implied gag order. Hall’s order limits the copying, dissemination and distribution of the 911 recordings to Forsyth County prosecutors; Granato’s attorney, Paul James; and anyone working on their behalf. But the order also applies to “all persons in possession of the above-referenced audio recordings and material until further hearing by this Court.”

Under state law, 911 recordings are public record. Law-enforcement agencies can choose not to release the audio of a 911 call if the audio identifies the caller. But if the audio cannot be released, agencies have to release a written transcript of the call. They can also release audio edited to obscure the voice of the caller.

And they can request that 911 recordings be sealed through a court order. However, the new media’s attorneys say law-enforcement agents and prosecutors have to prove that sealing the recordings is necessary by a preponderance of the evidence.

In this case, the Winston-Salem Journal sought the 911 recordings soon after Sampson was shot to death. The motion alleges that the Journal did not get any notification that police and prosecutors were trying to formally seal the recordings. And they never received a notification about a hearing in Hall’s chambers. There’s nothing in the public record indicating that Hall took sworn testimony from anyone, the motion says.

Photos by Andrew Dye/Journal  

A drum major for Winston-Salem State University’s marching band, The Red Sea of Sound (left) and a drum major for Wake Forest University’s marching band, The Spirit of the Old Gold and Black, direct their bands in a joint halftime show during Wake Forest football’s home opener at BB&T Field on Friday in Winston-Salem.

Andrew Dye/Journal 

RIGHT: The Red Sea of Sound presents its halftime show at BB&T Field on Friday.

Armed men in Halloween masks rob two stores, net a little over $1,000, Winston-Salem Police say

The Winston-Salem Police Department’s criminal investigations division is working to find three men who robbed two businesses in the past week.

Police said they believe the three men who stole $950 from Bonus Spins Unlimited, a sweepstakes and game room in the 8100 block of North Point Boulevard, just east of North Cherry Street, on Thursday afternoon are the same three who robbed a service station in the 2800 block of Reynolda Road, just north of Fairlawn Drive, early on Aug. 22, police Lt. Greg Dorn said.

The three made off with $120 from the service station, according to the police report.

The two businesses are about 21/2 miles apart.

In North Carolina, a conviction of robbery with a dangerous weapon can carry a sentence of up to 17 years.

In both instances, three men armed with handguns entered the store wearing Halloween masks, Dorn said, leading police to think the robberies are connected.

The first one was at night “so the time frames are a little different, but the masks are similar,” Dorn said.

In both incidents, the robbers left on foot, with no witnesses to tell police where they went, Dorn said.

There is video of the sweepstakes robbery that officers downloaded Friday, Dorn said.

He expressed concern that the robberies may continue if the men aren’t caught soon.

“I’m afraid this is going to be a little spree,” he said.

At least three people were robbed at gunpoint on Aug. 23 in the northern part of Winston-Salem, making five armed robberies in that area since Aug. 22.

Those three robberies do not appear to be connected to the ones at the sweepstakes business or the service station, but police aren’t ruling out the possibility, Dorn said.

Police ask that anyone with information about the robberies or the thieves contact Winston-Salem Police Department at 336-773-7000 or CrimeStoppers at 336-727-2800.

Arrest in fatal shooting at intersection of Silas Creek, South Main in Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem police have arrested a man on charges he shot 23-year-old Ernest Rennard Cameron on Aug. 23 while Cameron was in his car at the intersection of South Main Street and Silas Creek Parkway.

Cameron was in the car with a toddler-age boy and a woman at the time of the shooting, investigators said. He was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital by EMS.

Police ruled his death a homicide.

Wednesday, police arrested 24-year-old Deedward Devon Glenn of Winston-Salem on three counts of discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle inflicting serious injury, according to court records.

Glenn’s arrest warrant states he is specifically charged with shooting Cameron, but he is not charged with killing him.

Police declined to explain why Glenn has not been charged with killing Cameron, saying the investigation is ongoing.

Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill on Friday did not immediately return a request for comment about his office’s charging decision.

In addition to the shooting charges, Glenn is charged with trafficking cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to sell and deliver.

According to arrest warrants, Glenn was in possession of 7 grams of cocaine and 61 grams of crack cocaine.

Glenn is being held in the Forsyth County Jail under a $1.5 million bond.

Winston-Salem police closed the intersection of South Main Street and Silas Creek Parkway for nearly three hours Aug. 23 while they investigated the crime scene.

Glenn is scheduled to make his next appearance in Forsyth County District Court on Sept. 13 at 9 a.m.

Anyone with information about Cameron’s death is asked to call Winston-Salem police at 336-773-7700, or Crime Stoppers at 336-727-2800 or on its Spanish-language phone line at 336-728-3904.