It has not quite been a week since a shooting outside a bar in Winston-Salem created a world of hurt for the family and friends of the victim, Julius “Juice” Sampson, and led to questions that the Winston-Salem Police Department will have to investigate and answer. We’re confident that the investigation will be thorough and transparent — but none of the answers will bring Sampson back to us.
Rumors have swirled on social media about the shooting, and it’s tempting to take some of them at face value. But we won’t really know all the facts until the investigation is complete. Until then, we urge everyone to be patient.
What we do know is that Sampson, a 32-year-old African American man, was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of a restaurant near Hanes Mall following an altercation with Robert Anthony Granato, 22, who is white. People have told the Journal that the confrontation began inside the restaurant after Sampson defended a female bartender. Granato and Sampson then went outside and argued, uttering racial epithets at each other, before Granato shot Sampson.
Granato has been formally arraigned on the charges of first-degree murder and misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon while or after consuming alcohol. He is being held without bond.
Despite the hurled insults, investigators have not uncovered any evidence that the shootnig was racially motivated, Winston-Salem police Chief Catrina Thompson said at a news conference on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Arnita Miles, a friend of Sampson and a former Winston-Salem police officer, sent a letter to members of the Winston-Salem City Council expressing concern about Winston-Salem police officers’ response to the incident and urging police to be transparent in their investigation.
Also on Thursday, the North Carolina NAACP held a news conference to call on Winston-Salem police to conduct a full investigation to determine whether the shooting was racially motivated.
“We are always concerned that there might not be (a full investigation) because it’s not always that our voices are heard,” the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, the president of the state NAACP, said at the news conference. He noted an Instagram photo in which Granato appeared to display the “OK” hand signal that some white supremacists have embraced as a sign of their cause.
Not everyone recognizes it as such.
But in the heated racial atmosphere that’s roiling our country, racial motivation is a legitimate concern, and one that could influence the charges against Granato.
The Rev. Tembila Covington, the president of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem & Vicinity, said she has confidence that our police department will do a thorough investigation into Sampson’s death. We do, also.
Mayor Allen Joines will host a news conference at 9 a.m. today, with other elected officials, to show support for the Sampson family and the community.
Sampson, a barber, was married and had three children. “The impact of this loss will be felt for a very long time,” his friend Angelo Terry told the Journal. “He was very important to the community.”
A vigil held for Sampson on Wednesday, which Miles, a friend of Sampson’s, helped organize, was attended by more than 150 people. “We lost a champion in our community,” Miles said there. “We want to honor him today. We need to unite and stop gun violence in Winston-Salem.”
We agree. No argument was worth this. It should serve as a reminder that guns should not be in bars or any other place that serves alcohol, where people’s judgment can easily be impaired.
And the incident is a reminder that in today’s world, none of us are safe.