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Sit-down protest closes Trader Joe's before demonstrators head to mayor's house

About 40 protesters sat down inside Trader’s Joe’s grocery store at Thruway Shopping Center on Monday to demonstrate against racial injustice, forcing the store to close earlier than scheduled.

After the demonstration at the store ended, protesters drove to Mayor Allen Joines’ home in the city’s western section, where they staged a second rally. At one point, Joines came out of his house and spoke with the protesters.

At Trader Joe’s, demonstrators entered the store at 7:15 p.m. and remained there until about 8:40. The store’s manager allowed customers to continue to come in and shop for groceries for 37 minutes before the doors were locked at 7:52 p.m.

About 20 additional protesters waited outside the store for the sit-down rally to end.

Monday’s event was the city’s 17th day of demonstrations. It was billed on social media as an underground marathon protest. People at the scene described themselves as local residents but didn’t tout any specific group affiliation.

The protesters held a peaceful rally, but a store manager called 911 to report trespassing at the store at 7:15 p.m., police Lt. John Morris said. Three police officers soon arrived and went inside.

The Trader Joe’s managers didn’t want to press trespassing charges against the demonstrators inside the store, Morris said.

“We just stood by to make sure everything was peaceful,” he said.

Steve Rose, a store manager, came outside about 7:40 p.m. and told about 12 people waiting to go inside that the business was closing because of the protest.

“I’m sorry folks, we’re over capacity,” Rose said. “I appreciate your patronage, but we are closing.”

Restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 allow no more than 50 people at a time inside the grocery store.

Rose told another manager, Gavin Henthorn, that after all the remaining customers inside the store had left, Rose would ask the demonstrators to leave as well. The store would then close for Monday night.

Trader Joe’s officially closes at 9 p.m.

Inside the store, the demonstrators chanted the now-familiar calls of “No justice, no peace — no racist police,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Breonna Taylor” and “George Floyd.” Just inside the store’s entrance, a protester held a sign that said, “Defund the Winston-Salem Police Department.”

Floyd, 46, died May 25 when a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Derek Chauvin, who was fired, has been charged with second-degree murder, among other offenses. Three other police officers at the scene, who also were fired, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Taylor, 26, and her boyfriend were in bed in Louisville, Ky., when three armed police detectives broke through their front door three months ago. Gunfire erupted, killing Taylor, a black woman.

The protesters also demanded justice for Charles Moody, a 27-year-old black man, who was arrested Saturday at Cooks Flea Market on misdemeanor charges of resisting an officer and second-degree trespassing. Moody said that Deputy Troy Curry, who is white, used excessive force when Curry arrested him. A short video of the incident has gone viral on social media.

Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. of Forsyth County said Monday that Curry’s body-camera footage showed that Curry didn’t use excessive force when he arrested Moody, and that Curry’s actions were proper.

During Monday’s sit-down protest, Henthorn stood outside the store’s entrance. Henthorn told customers that a protest was happening inside the store, and they could enter the business if they felt comfortable doing so.

Many shoppers did go inside, and customers guided their carts between the protesters and selected items from the store’s shelves.

Others walked away without entering the store.

“I will just leave,” a woman told Henthorn. “This is just ridiculous.”

Other customers stared at the demonstrators as they left the store.

Outside the store, Miranda Martin of Winston-Salem, a protest organizer, told Henthorn that demonstrators weren’t targeting Trader Joe’s with their actions.

“This isn’t about Trader Joe’s,” Martin said.

Henthorn told a Journal reporter that the store’s landlord and manager knew ahead of time that protesters would demonstrate inside the store. Information about the protest was on Facebook, Henthorn said.

The demonstrators conducted their protest in a safe environment,” Henthorn said.

On its Instagram page, Trader Joe’s said that its supports its Black employees and customers.

“We understand that this is a time to also use our voice,” the company’s message said in part. “In this moment of heartbreaking injustice, we stand together with and share our support with our Black crew members and customers.”

Later on Monday, the protesters staged a 90-minute rally in front of Joines’ home. Joines talked to several demonstrators outside of his home.

Kiana Terry, a protest organizer, said that protesters talked to Joines about their demands, including shifting money from Winston-Salem Police Department to programs that would help poverty-stricken areas in eastern Winston-Salem,

Joines said he thanked the demonstrators for conducting peaceful protests in the city in recent weeks.

“They asked a lot questions, some of which I didn’t have answers,” Joines said Monday night. Joines asked protesters to send him an email with their questions and he would respond to those questions, he said.

Joines also acknowledged that the protesters talked to him about moving money from the police department and using it help the city’s poor residents.

Joines said he told the protesters about a citizens’ committee that will meet in August to discuss how the city should spend $1 million from the police department’s budget during the current 2020-21 fiscal year. Many protesters wanted to have input in that committee, Joines said.

Deputy did not use excessive force, sheriff insists. Leaders in Forsyth's Black community say they agree with Kimbrough.

Forsyth County’s sheriff says his deputy did not use excessive force during a Saturday arrest at Cooks Flea Market. The arrest has been heavily scrutinized after it was caught on video and shared via social media.

Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. was joined during a press conference Monday by leaders from the Black community who said they have seen the deputy’s body-camera footage, though that footage has not been made public.

The four said they agree with Kimbrough that Deputy Troy Curry did not use excessive force.

The Rev. Alvin Carlisle, the president of the local chapter of the NAACP; Bishop Todd Fulton, the social-justice chairman of the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity; James Perry, the president of the Winston-Salem Urban League; and Al Jabbar, a Winston-Salem native and community activist, appeared at Kimbrough’s news conference.

“We are satisfied that the officer did everything he could to avoid a confrontation with (Moody),” Carlisle said. “It’s important for us to be married to the truth.”

Kimbrough said he consulted with the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office, which also determined that Curry acted properly and didn’t use excessive force.

Charles Redell Moody, 27, a black man, said that Curry, who is white and was working security at the flea market, used excessive force when Curry arrested him. A video that lasts 1 minute and 18 seconds was widely shared on social media.

Kimbrough said many people have used that video to unfairly criticize him and the sheriff’s office. Kimbrough said he’s irritated by the criticism and that it takes only one incident, such as Moody’s arrest, to inflame many people about law- enforcement officers.

“We need to know the truth because the truth is portable,” Kimbrough said. “If my guys are wrong, I will be the first one to check them because before I was the sheriff or before I was an agent, I was a black man. I understand the sensitivity of being colored, Black (and) African American. But what I am not going to get into is that we are not going to manipulate a situation in the culture and climate that we are in.”

The sheriff’s office and the owners of the flea market said Moody was arrested because he refused to comply with a statewide mandate requiring masks to combat the spread of COVID-19, and the owners asked him to leave.

Moody said Sunday that’s not true. He said he never refused to wear a face mask and he was never asked to leave the flea market. Moody has been charged with resisting arrest and second-degree trespassing, both misdemeanors. Moody was released from custody on a unsecured $250 bond.

He is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 28.

Moody, who said he has hired an attorney, declined to comment Monday about Kimbrough’s statements.

At the news conference, Kimbrough read a report about the arrest. It said an employee at the flea market approached Moody, who was trying to get money out of an ATM, and told him masks were required at the business and offered to provide one.

Moody refused to wear a mask, Kimbrough said as he read the report.

“It was explained to him several times, and he refused to wear the mask,” Kimbrough said, quoting the report. “The only thing he was concerned about was that he couldn’t get money out of the ATM machine.”

Moody then began walking out of the building and was followed by Curry and another employee, Kimbrough said.

Kimbrough and the four community leaders at Monday’s event say body-camera footage shows that Curry asked Moody to leave the flea market five times and told Moody that he was trespassing.

“At that point, it was a legal issue,” Kimbrough said. “It wasn’t about a face mask. It was a trespassing issue.”

Moody has disputed the sheriff’s office’s version of the incident. He said Sunday that no one told him to leave.

When Curry attempted to arrest Moody, the two men struggled. The video shared on social media showed that struggle as Moody was eventually arrested.

“While I’m walking, he wanted me to stop,” Moody said of Curry’s actions. “He grabbed me by my arm and I just kind of snatched my arm back. Once I did that, he said, ‘You’re under arrest.’”

Moody tells Curry he has done nothing wrong. At some point, Curry lifts Moody up and toward a wall. The two men struggle and Curry later yells, “Stop it,” several times.

An older white man in a red shirt, who appears to be an employee of the flea market, steps in to assist Curry. When Curry has Moody back up at the counter, a Black man who also appears to be an employee helps Curry get one of Moody’s arms behind his back in order to place handcuffs on him.

Kimbrough said he appreciated that the two employees helped Curry arrest Moody.

The sheriff said the video most people have seen doesn’t tell the full story of what happened at the flea market before and during Moody’s arrest.

Curry’s body-camera footage shows that Moody used racial slurs and profanity during his arrest, Kimbrough said. Kimbrough also said he called Moody on Sunday to discuss the incident and spoke to Curry about it as well. The sheriff said he has no ill feelings toward Moody.

“He was a nice young man in talking to me on the phone,” Kimbrough said.

John Neville spent a day in jail and died three days later. Without official answers, we're left guessing what happened.

Other than in reports and video footage being zealously guarded by an (iron) fistful of officials — among them Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough, District Attorney Jim O’Neill, the State Bureau of Investigation and lawyers tasked with covering various parties — not much is known about the last hours of John Neville’s life.

Any death is a tragedy, this one particularly so, as a 56-year-old man died under suspicious circumstances. This tragedy is compounded by the fact that he died not long after being released from the custody of the Forsyth County Detention Center — and is perhaps exceeded by the appearance of a cover-up.

Before it’s over, perhaps some of that will be attributable to coincidence, workload or simple poor judgment.

But for now, learning John Neville’s name seven months after his death in a time of righteous social upheaval and near daily protests of police brutality and law-enforcement tactics is a bad look.

Still waiting

Let’s start with what is known about John Neville’s final days.

He was arrested Dec. 1 by Kernersville police on an outstanding warrant for assault on a female that had been sworn out a month before.

The following day, he was taken to the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Three days after that, on Dec. 4, Neville was dead.

Sheriff Kimbrough — Mr. Transparency, if his social media proclamations are to be believed — asked the SBI to investigate and then promptly got busy obscuring public details of Neville’s death.

Nearly seven months later, on Friday, those few limited facts finally were acknowledged. More than likely after officials learned that reporters were starting to ask questions.

Neville’s death certificate lists his cause of death as “pending” and says the case has been referred to the state medical examiner’s office.

Neville “experienced a medical emergency,” Kimbrough said in a prepared statement. He followed that up by offering a time-honored dodge — citing an “ongoing investigation” that prohibits further comment. The only thing missing is the phrase “on advice of counsel.”

None of that is uncommon, particularly in cases that involve law enforcement. Toxicology reports can take weeks, if not months, to complete, for example.

And if there is even the slightest possibility of criminal charges being filed, delays are also to be expected. The investigation has to be right.

But seven months? The SBI’s report was finished in April and forwarded to the prosecutor’s office.

“I can’t give details about what happened,” Scott Williams, a spokesman for the SBI, told The (Raleigh) News & Observer. “I can tell you that he was in medical distress when detention officers responded to his cell.”

Medical distress? That’s pretty open-ended.

Rarely do law enforcement officials fail to mention that someone died while in their custody or even shortly after experiencing a “medical emergency” while in their care.

Shortly before taking Neville to the emergency room, officials moved to unsecure his bond, which meant that he technically was no longer in their custody — a slick move someone in officialdom might take to, say, limit liability and/or financial responsibility for medical bills.

“Our firm has been retained to represent John Neville’s estate by the executor, which is one of Mr. Neville’s children,” reads a statement issued by the Grace, Tisdale and Clifton law firm. “This is an extremely personal matter for them, and we’ve been waiting patiently since December to see whether any charges will be brought in connection to his death, and for the autopsy and (cause of death), neither of which has been released yet.”

Nearly seven months and counting, in other words.

As is almost always the case these days, there is video evidence — body cameras and/or surveillance cameras from inside the jail — for officials to review.

Seven months is a long time to wait for answers. It carries, at minimum, a whiff of bad faith.

What the video shows, at this point, is known only to a handful of people. The list would include, but would not be limited to, Kimbrough, O’Neill and the SBI. And it might include Neville’s attorneys and, possibly, his survivors.

“The video is bad,” said a person familiar with its contents.

There was some interaction between jailers and Neville. But did they cause his injuries, contribute to them, ignore symptoms of serious illness or delay medical treatment in any way?

Was the jail — and by extension, Sheriff Kimbrough — complicit, negligent or none of the above?

The sheriff did say he was trying to honor the wishes of Neville’s survivors by staying quiet. That was a mistake; a man died after leaving the jail and being taken to the hospital.

Further complicating matters is a bill passed by the Legislature in the wee hours Friday morning.

The bill, which is awaiting the signature of Gov. Roy Cooper, would restrict public access to death records by making private “all information and records provided by a city, county, or other public entity to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, or its agents concerning a death investigation.”

The timing likely amounts to a terrible coincidence. The original bill was completely unrelated, calling for expanded medical use of CBD oil. The bill got hijacked in the legislative process. Stuff like that — substituting language — happens.

Still, it doesn’t help that it was passed hours before word of Neville’s death, seven months prior, first circulated. Local protesters have picked up on that, too.

“I don’t trust the SBI to do a real investigation of John Neville’s death,” protest organizer Tony Ndege said Saturday.

Here’s the truth: A man died after being released from jail to medical care.

The times demand more transparency, not less. Speaking the truth, no matter how unpleasant, builds trust in institutions. You’d think that would be obvious by now.

Forsyth sees 190 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend and one additional death

The total number of COVID-19 cases reported in Forsyth County is poised to exceed 3,000, and one additional death was recorded over the weekend.

The Forsyth health department reported that, as of 12:35 p.m. Monday, there were 2,978 cases in the county, up 190 cases from Friday — the last day numbers were released.

That represents 83 new cases and one death reported Saturday, 64 new cases Sunday and 43 new cases Monday.

Forsyth’s highest daily case increase was 162, reported on June 1.

Forsyth reports 1,850 individuals who have recovered, for an active case count of 1,094.

Seven cases in Forsyth are linked to staff members at the county jail, up from five when the outbreak was reported initially.

County health officials did not disclose information about the latest COVID-19 death, which makes for 34 in Forsyth since mid-March.

Among the Forsyth COVID-19 patients who have died, 19 were 65 or older.

Ten were 55 to 64.

Three were 45 to 54.

Two were 25 to 34.

The Forsyth breakdown of deaths by race is: 15 whites; nine Blacks; seven Hispanics; two whose race is unknown; and one Asian.

The health department plans to hold its next testing event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at Union Baptist Church, 1200 N. Trade St. NW, in downtown Winston-Salem.

There have been at least 11,039 total cases in the 14-county Triad and Northwest North Carolina region with 245 reported deaths.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported that, as of noon Monday, there have been 63,484 confirmed cases, 1,325 deaths and 843 hospitalizations statewide.

As of noon Friday, there were 58,818 cases, 1,303 deaths and 892 hospitalized in North Carolina.

With 45,538 patients considered recovered as of noon Monday, the number of active case statewide is 17,946.

The high in daily hospitalizations was 915 on June 23. Hospitalizations have been above 800 for 14 consecutive days in North Carolina.

Public health officials now list Forsyth among eight counties in the state running the greatest risk of rapid spread of the virus. State health officials said Monday that additional personal protective equipment is being shipped to those counties.

According to the Forsyth weekly surveillance report, released Monday, 11.4%, or 2,918, of the 25,679 individuals tested for the virus were positive.

By comparison, the state’s positive testing rate has hovered between 9% and 10% since at least mid-May, including being at 9% as of Monday.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health secretary, has said she would feel more comfortable with a 5% positive rate.

Hispanic residents represent 62.9%, or 1,835, of the positive tests in Forsyth.

Black residents account for 11.3%, or 329 positive tests.

White residents make up 11.3%, or 324 positive tests.

On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper extended the Phase 2 reopening limitations to July, citing the recent statewide increases in overall cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

Cooper also issued a statewide face mask mandate while in public hat began Friday.

The Cooper administration is monitoring five public-health data points: number of hospitalizations; number of hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators available; number of positive cases; percentage of positive cases; and number of individuals coming to hospital emergency rooms with COVID-19 symptoms.

Cohen said it remains too soon to have definitive data on whether there have been outbreaks at mass gatherings, whether at recent Black Lives Matter protests or the thousands of fans who attend three separate racing events at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw.

Cohen has said the data is showing increasing community spread of the virus by individuals “when they feel completely fine and they don’t know they have it” and by workers in more high-risk jobs, such as meat-processing facilities and long-term care facilities.