News conference

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, flanked by city, county and state officials, speaks at a press conference addressing the killing of Julius “Juice” Sampson last month.

The hearing to determine whether to release 911 recordings in a fatal shooting at Hanes Mall has been moved to Monday afternoon.

Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court was scheduled to hear the matter Thursday morning. Instead, he will hear it at 2 p.m. Monday in Courtroom 6A in the Forsyth County Hall of Justice.

The Winston-Salem Journal and three other news organizations — WXII, WFMY and WGHP — filed a motion to overturn a signed order signed by Hall to seal five 911 recordings made in connection with the 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. Under state law, 911 recordings are generally public record.

Winston-Salem police officers were called to a report of a shooting at 3:41 p.m. Aug. 6, outside BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at Hanes Mall. Officers found Sampson lying in the parking lot.

Police said Sampson and Robert Anthony Granato, 22, of Cloverhurst Court, had an altercation inside the restaurant that spilled outside. Police said Granato shot Sampson, who died at the scene.

Granato is charged with felony murder and misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon while or after consuming alcohol.

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 at 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.

Winston-Salem police have released few details about the shooting. Race has emerged as an issue because people on social media have said that Granato, who is white, used a racial epithet at Sampson, who was black.

People also have pointed out a 2014 picture of Granato and a friend on Granato’s Instagram account. The two men are shown wearing shirts that say “Murica.” The two are holding up the OK hand signal. After 2017, that hand signal became increasingly associated with white supremacy, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson said in a news conference that investigators have not uncovered any evidence that the shooting was racially motivated, but she also said that both men used racial epithets.

She did not say what racial epithets the two men said or describe the circumstances around which those racial epithets were said.

A search warrant said that the restaurant had decided to stop serving alcohol to Granato and his friend, Landon Smith, who has not been charged in connection with the shooting. Restaurant managers also determined that Granato and Smith needed to leave.

The two men became belligerent to a female bartender who told them she would no longer be serving them alcohol. The altercation began when Sampson stepped in to defend the bartender.

The men got into a physical fight outside and Granato shot Sampson in the chest, according to the search warrant.

Attorneys for the Winston-Salem Journal and other media organizations argue that the process through which Hall signed the order was unconstitutional because the organizations were not notified of a hearing. The attorneys also object to what they call a gag order that applies to “all persons in possession of the above-referenced audio recordings and material until further hearing by this Court.”

Granato is in the Forsyth County Jail with no bond allowed on the murder charge. He is scheduled to appear in Forsyth District Court on Dec. 5.

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mhewlett@wsjournal.com

336-727-7326

@mhewlettWSJ

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