KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - Residents of Kinston are shaken by three separate shootings in the first week of July. It sparked the city’s mayor and police chief to turn to faith to put an end to the violence.
“The Bible says, ‘When two or three are gathered, I will be in your midst,’” recited pastor Merwyn Smith. He stood on the steps of city hall calling for prayer and action.
Joined by the mayor and the chief of police, faith leaders asked the community to help them put an end to senseless gun violence.
“And a lot of times they think, ‘Okay, now I can get away with more.’ So, it’s important for citizens to speak up, take back their community,” said Police Chief Jenee Spencer. “Say, ‘We’re not going to allow this, and if I see you doing something wrong, I’m going to tell on it because I want you out of my community. If you are not a good citizen, then you don’t have to be here.’”
The police department is ramping up its Police Community Action Team once again. The force was disbanded to bulk up patrol staff, but the need is back.
The faith leaders say there are more tools a person can use to cope.
“You know, in these stressful times, we’ve got to learn how to depend on things like prayer and meditation that will bring us to a place of peace, an inward peace,” said Jumping Run Church pastor Anthony Lawson.
Those who gathered say that peace needs to be balanced with proactivity.
“We don’t ever want it to be the norm. We don’t ever want to be numb to gun violence,” said Mayor Don Hardy. “We must take action, affirmative action, by coming together.”
For those with their hands on the trigger, Hardy has a message.
“Think about every action, everything that you do. And think about the consequences of your actions because it’s a no-win situation,” warned Hardy. “Because the family loses their loved one from their home, and the other loved one is in the ground, dead.”
Though not all of the shootings in Kinston earlier this month were found to be gang-related, they are considered targeted violence. All three investigations are ongoing.
Leaders now hope their plea will bring the city back to what it once was.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Police in Greenville say they are investigating a suspicious death this afternoon.
A police department spokeswoman said their officers were doing a welfare check at a home on Spring Forest Road when they discovered a body.
They said that based on evidence found at the home, it is being investigated as a suspicious death.
Neighbors watched the investigation unfold on their block with strong emotion.
“I mean it really hit home then because I might have shed a couple of tears, but I wasn’t really taking it seriously until I seen the body come up out of there,” said Talib Bey who lives across the street.
Police have yet to release any details on the victim or the circumstances surrounding the death.
Stay with WITN for more on this developing story.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Eastern Carolina cyclists rode in silence Wednesday evening in honor of riders who have been killed or injured on the road.
The Ride of Silence is a worldwide event advocating for safer streets for cyclists. Eastern Carolinians taking part rolled out at 6:30 p.m. at the Greenville Bike Company on Clark Street.
Steven Hardy-Braz mounted his bike for the first time since a crash almost left him dead. The thing he loved most, cycling, became one of his hardest moments to overcome.
“In life, we have to make sure our fears don’t dominate us, but we can overcome them,” Hardy-Braz said. “But we always need to take precautions and be safe.”
Hardy-Braz followed that mantra and organized a Pitt Counter chapter of the 12-mile Ride of Silence.
In the East, cyclists have formed a strong community.
“We just enjoy being out in the country on our bikes, fellowshipping with each other, just talking and having a good time out in the open,” cyclist Johnny Fleming said.
Four feet of space is the law in our state that motorists have to give room on the road. Hardy-Braz sees that as an ultimate liability.
“If I’m going to be a responsible husband, father, friend, brother, son... I need to be careful, and I always have to outweigh the dangers of anything I do in life versus the enjoyment,” Hardy-Braz said. “But for me, it’s a recreation or a choice in transportation. Other people, it’s the only choice they have.”
Hardy-Braz advocates for everyone moving on two wheels, but cyclists know they have a responsibility on the roads too.
“Follow all the traffic laws, ride with the traffic, and don’t weave in and out in traffic,” he said. “That’s what I do when I’m riding.”
After 12 miles of silence, the riders had a lot on their minds.
“Just thinking about being able to ride free, have fun, remembering some of the people that got injured just trying to cycle on the highway,” Fleming said.
People can see pictures from those who participated in the ride across the globe by searching the hashtag: #RideofSilence2022 on social media.
WARSAW, N.C. (WITN) - The family of a man shot and killed in Warsaw is not satisfied with the way police have handled the investigation.
Phillip Troublefield was killed in November of 2021. Warsaw Police say this was a random act of violence, but the victim’s family thinks otherwise.
For months, the family has grieved the sudden loss of a loved one. Now, they demand updates in the investigation of his killing.
“That was his life. You ain’t had no business taking his life,” cried Renee Means, Troublefeled’s aunt. “If you were a real man you would go and talk to him, but you took him away from us.”
Troublefield was shot and killed alongside Debbie Cortez in a car. Two kids in the backseat suffered injuries but ultimately recovered.
Troublefield’s family says nothing has been the same.
“The kids, they be saying, ‘Mommy and Daddy!’ We don’t know what to say,” said the man’s grandmother, Annie Smith. “They pick up the picture and they say, ‘dada? Mommy?’ There ain’t much we can say.”
Although Warsaw Police were seen patrolling the apartment complex Monday where the shooting happened, they were not able to provide an update on the investigation.
“They were saying, ‘Let them do their work so have patience.’ I had patience; I don’t have anymore patience because I feel like they were out here laughing at me, laughing at us, and I want justice,” said Troublefield’s mother, Katrina Wilson.
Troublefield’s family is left with more questions than answers five months after the man’s death. They want the person responsible to be held accountable.
“We’re not going to rest well knowing somebody’s out there just being able to terrorize people and there’s no justice,” warned Tessie Wilson, the man’s cousin.
The family confronted some of the Tanglewood Apartment complex residents insisting they share anything they saw or heard that day.
Emotions were high and once again, the family left the scene of Troublefield’s death in tears.
Anyone with information on this shooting is asked to contact Warsaw police at 910-293-7816.
HYDE COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - An Eastern Carolina man is dead after his wife says he tried to kill her.
Denise Blount called 911 as she said the man chased her with a gun through her home in Swan Quarter.
Blount says her husband’s behavior follows a pattern. On March 4th he was arrested for assaulting her. Per his release he was ordered to eliminate contact and stay off of her property.
The woman says her husband camped out across the street from her home for at least 30 days, stalking her.
Domestic violence advocates in Hyde County say that controlling behavior is a sign of abuse.
“I know it’s hard for some people. They’re scared, they don’t have anywhere to go, they can’t support themselves,” said Debbie Douglas, a Hyde County Hotline domestic violence advocate.
One in every four women experience severe intimate partner violence across the country. The Hyde County Hotline tries to plant seeds of hope in victims.
“People would probably be surprised at what goes on behind closed doors,” said Douglas.
Denise and Nat Blount were married for 48 years., but Denise says she thought Nat was going to kill her on Tuesday. Hyde County Sheriff’s deputies say in a standoff with the man, he aimed his gun toward them. Ten year sheriff’s deputy veteran William Waters then fatally shot the man.
“We do what we can, but transportation, jobs, housing, is a problem down here,” said Douglas.
With Hyde County’s rural landscape and sometimes limited resources, domestic violence advocates stress the importance of identifying signs of abuse.
“If they’re bossy, if they’re trying to control everything, isolate them from their friends and family, those are signs of domestic violence,” advised Douglas. “Domestic violence isn’t always hitting. There’s also emotional abuse.”
Using these signs, the hope is to save survivors from further harm.
Nat Blount’s shooting death is being investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation, per the Hyde County sheriff’s request.
The SBI’s findings will be sent to District Attorney Seth Edwards’ office for final review. Until then, Deputy Waters will remain on paid administrative leave.
If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, you can call the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
You can also visit the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website at nccadv.org.
TARBORO, N.C. (WITN) - One man is under arrest for the high-speed chase that left a Tarboro police cruiser wrecked upside down at a busy intersection. The woman driving the other car says the officer blindsided her without lights or sirens.
“We were just driving through the light then, boom!” said Megan Miracco, the driver behind the wheel of the car that was involved in the crash. “All I remember hearing was, ‘Megan!’ and I seen Tarboro police and we just spun.”
While Miracco was trying to keep her car from hitting others, Taylor Smith in the passenger seat was focused on her daughter
“I really didn’t worry about me. She was buckled in, thank God for that,” said Smith. “We got out alive basically, I was more praying for that than anything.”
The pair said they were hit by a Tarboro police officer. That officer was in a high-speed chase of a different driver in Rocky Mount.
Later Monday evening, that driver was identified as Major Perry and charged with several offences, including felony flee to elude arrest.
Perry was given a $15,000 secured bond.
Miracco and Smith say their fate could have been avoided if the officer used his lights or sirens.
“It would have helped if we had heard the sirens. I respect police, I respect the fire department, I respect everybody that works for the city,” said Miracco. “We would have stopped, but if only we heard the sirens. I didn’t hear anything.”
Smith echoed that statement, “I didn’t see no blue lights and if we would have known that he was coming I think we would have reacted differently, or at least he would have reacted differently.”
Grateful to be dealing with soreness and scrapes over something worse, but now out of her only vehicle, Miracco has some demands for those responsible.
“We could have been gone. We wouldn’t be able to do this little interview. We wouldn’t have been here and people are taking it like, ‘Oh, you know, officer involved,’ but we were involved too,” said Miracco. “We’re definitely part of the victims. We just want justice for us. Not for it to go again. Be careful out there.”
Miracco sought legal representation to lead any future cases that come of this crash.
WITN has contacted Tarboro Police but have not heard back.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Family and friends gathered at the scene of an apparent hit and run that left a Greenville teen dead.
The Greenville Police Department confirmed 13-year-old Jaquile Jackson was the victim found lying in a ditch Monday morning on MacGregor Downs Road.
Jackson’s family, including his aunt Chinetta Pippen, gathered near where his body was found to release red balloons into the air and say words in commemoration of him.
“Justice for Junior! Long live Junior!” those at the vigil said.
Part of me didn’t want to take people there, but then the other part of me feel like they need to see that spot,” Pippen said. “Other people need to see that spot so they know this is where a child was left for dead in a ditch... like people need to feel what we felt.”
Pippen says her nephew was last seen playing a game at his home off of Moyewood Drive at about 10 p.m. when without warning, he left home on a scooter with a phone. Pippen believes he was heading to see a friend who lives near MacGregor Downs Road on his first night of spring break.
“Whenever he felt some type of way he used to leave. He’s a teenager,” Pippen said.
“But he never left and went a long ways,” Lisa Artis, Jackson’s grandmother added. “He’s never done that.”
Police found Jackson’s body and a scooter two miles away from his home on MacGregor Downs Road the next morning.
Jackson’s family said he had a history of diagnosed mental illness. They hope to share his story to help other kids and prevent families from dealing with a similar tragic loss.
Pippen and the rest of Jackson’s loved ones also want to advocate for safer streets with proper lighting and speed monitoring, especially where there are a lot of kids.
The person responsible for the apparent hit and run has not yet been found.
“We have to do better as a community,” Pippen said. “Not only that, I know somebody has seen something, I know somebody heard something. They need to talk.”
Anyone with any information about this case is asked to call police at 252-702-4032 or Crime Stoppers at 252-758-7777.
PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) -A Pitt County family is seeking answers in the disappearance of their loved one who was supposed to be headed to Las Vegas for a pageant, but never made it and hasn’t been heard from or seen since.
The family of 21-year-old Lejourney Farrow says going off the grid is uncharacteristic for her.
Now her mom Olivia and brother Randy, are trying to piece together the last ten days that their loved one has been missing.
Olivia says, “I have been devastated.”
According to Greensboro Police, Farrow was last seen on February 10th.
Her family says she was expected to fly from there to Las Vegas that day for a beauty pageant, and onto New York City after that, but missed her flight and rescheduled for early the next day.
On February 11th, a text message came in from Farrow’s phone to her family that she had landed in Chicago, one of her scheduled layovers. That is the last known contact with her family.
Randy says, “She always talked about Journey’s journey. That was something for her that was really passionate. She always wanted to write about that.”
They say she wouldn’t miss the opportunity to participate in the pageant by choice.
Randy says, “She was really inspired by being a role model for the younger kids. If you look at her Facebook, a lot of the people that she follows are from the pageant world, that’s pretty much all of her friends.”
A detective in Greensboro has been assigned to Farrow’s case and is looking into the details of her last known whereabouts.
Randy says for the family, “Right now it’s all a big blob and a bunch of question marks. We don’t have that many details from the detectives and what they’ve found. I don’t want to make a whole bunch of assumptions because when you assume stuff, your mind just goes to the worst places possible.”
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Lejourney Farrow can contact Greensboro Crimestoppers at 336-373-2222.
PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - More North Carolinians died from car accidents in 2021 than any other year.
This preliminary data comes from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, which says 1,755 people died in traffic accidents last year. The previous record stood at 1,704 deaths in 2007.
These numbers follow a nationwide trend of distracted driving causing an uptick in deaths.
During the pandemic, travel took on a different definition. More people utilized cars as their primary mode of transportation to avoid highly trafficked public spaces like airplanes.
However, more folks behind the wheels and on the roads brought more fatal accidents.
“Nobody is really ever happy to see you, but it’s just part of the business,” tow truck driver Noah Harrison said.
Getting behind the wheel comes with major responsibilities.
“You are essentially the pilot of a, sometimes two-ton guided-missile down the roadway where you have other two-ton guided missiles beside you,” Highway Safety Program Director Mark Ezzell said.
In the past year, Harrison says he’s been called out to scenes ranging from fender benders to tragic accidents one to three times a week.
Through grants and programs like the Booze It and Lose It campaign, the state is looking to increase highway surveillance, looking to the pandemic as a blueprint.
“Much like we’re dealing with COVID, we can look to some of those public health solutions to help address the issue,” Ezzell said, adding “We need layers of protection.”
For the safety program, that means starting with public education on road safety and design.
“Those are simple steps we can take to save a life,” Ezzell said.
While the overall trend moved upward for fatal accidents, the data decreased year to year in some specific types of crashes. Fewer traffic deaths related to pedestrians and cyclists were reported in 2021 than in 2020.
However, this Super Bowl weekend, the roadways have a chance to turn even deadlier.
“Anything after about midnight, you can guarantee there’s going to be alcohol involved somewhere along the line,” Harrison said. “Those are usually your worst wreck... late at night, somebody drinking or leaving the bar.”
People are encouraged to utilize resources like ridesharing programs or designated drivers.
If you are hosting, Ezzell suggests cutting off alcohol for your guests after halftime and taking some responsibility in making sure everyone has a safe way home.
GRIMESLAND, N.C. (WITN) - Dozens of family members and friends of Brandon Hardy, who authorities said was shot and killed at a home on Alvin Road in Grimesland on New Year’s Day by Robert Green, continued calls for justice after the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office gave their findings to the District Attorney last Thursday.
A march was held in Grimesland on Saturday.
“Until anybody walks in my shoes, they can’t tell me anything,” said Belinda Anderson, Hardy’s mother.
The two-page summary of the investigation by the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office says Belinda Matthews, who both men were seeing, had invited Hardy over. The summary details Hardy’s shooting death but protesters say there’s more to the story.
The family announced on Jan. 27 they reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and has heard from them. They have requested additional information before they move forward.
“This family wants justice. That’s all the family is asking for,” said the spokesman for the family.
Hardy’s nieces, nephews, and his child, all held signs calling for justice.
“Seven from me, three from my sister, one was his. So, it’s a lot of them,” said Brittany Hardy, Brandon Hardy’s sister.
As the family waits for answers after reaching out to federal officials, Hardy’s mother, Belinda Anderson, said she’s been crying since the day he died.
“I’ve cried from January first up to today,” said Anderson. “Today is the first day I haven’t cried. I’m going all the way for mine. That was my only son, I have to do it.”
The family said they plan to protest again at the Pitt County Courthouse on February 25.
Every story you see here is written, filmed, edited, fronted, and day-turned by Maddie. As an MMJ with WITN, she really does it all!