JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Millions of people across the United States have expressed their condolences to the loved ones lost in the recent string of mass shootings, most notably the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Many even have expressed their demands for reformed gun laws to prevent other mass shootings from threatening the lives of children and Americans in general.
And Tuesday evening, those expressions came from children themselves, in the form of the Jacksonville Youth Council.
WITN was at Jacksonville City Hall where a gun violence awareness ceremony took place.
The goal of the event was for the youth to be there for each other in a difficult time and for them to make clear what they would like to see change.
Morgan McRae is the chairperson of the youth council, as well as a rising senior at Jacksonville High School. She spoke about how the Uvalde school shooting has impacted her.
“The tragedy has impacted me by really just becoming more aware of my surroundings and honestly just being aware that there’s dangers everywhere, even at school,” Mcrae said. “I feel like school is a place students should be able to go and feel safe, and seeing every day on TV students being killed at school is not a good feeling.”
McRae then elaborated upon what the mission of the ceremony Tuesday was.
"The message that I hope people are able to take away from this is that this violence has to stop. It’s not getting us anywhere and it’s really negatively impacting the youth and this cycle’s just going to continue," said Morgan McRae, Jacksonville Youth Council chairperson.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The Eastern North Carolina Rescue Squad is planning to perform safe-and-well checks from Monday until Friday due to the severe heat our region is experiencing.
The checks will be for anyone who may be without access to air conditioning, cold water, or ice. The service is completely free for those within the limits of Pitt County.
The squad is self-described as equal parts intervention and education, and the entire team is made up of volunteers.
The rescue squad did something similar a few months ago when the East was dealing with the opposite kind of extreme weather: freezing temperatures.
Now with temperatures getting close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the squad is looking to make rounds on any elderly neighbors or folks experiencing house insecurity or health problems.
“A lot of the populations, when we go out there, especially people who don’t have air conditioning, they don’t open their windows, they don’t have a lot of access to the safety information that they need in order to mitigate the loss of power or no air conditioning... things like that,” Mathias Tschrnko, ENC Rescue Squad chief officer said.
Anyone interested in the service can head over to the Eastern North Carolina Rescue Squad’s Facebook page. There you will find a form to fill out the required information like address, safety concerns, and more.
The rescue squad will stop by with water, ice, and information about how to stay safe.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - With fans getting ready to pack Clark LeClair Stadium to watch ECU play Texas in the NCAA Super-Regional tournament, campus police are reminding fans about their policies for ticket resale.
Upwards of 5,000 fans will be taking it out to the ball game this weekend, but that’s only if they were lucky enough to get their hands on a ticket.
Campus police Captain Chris Sutton says a seller is considered to be scalping when their asking price is raised by more than $3 from face value.
That means any Jungle tickets being sold for more than $18 a piece are considered scalped tickets.
Captain Sutton says reselling tickets on campus property is not allowed, but it can be done on public sidewalks outside of the stadium.
Police have the opportunity to charge those not in compliance.
On the popular ticket resale site, StubHub, Jungle seats are currently selling for anywhere from $336 to $368 each.
Around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, ECU baseball officially announced that both Friday and Saturday’s games were sold out.
It’s great news for the Pirates, but not something that some fans want to hear. Public sales were extremely limited with only 100 tickets released and they sold quickly.
Jason Smith writes about his experience with buying highly sought after gameday tickets saying, “Got on at 9:00 a.m. this morning like they said... If anyone knows anyone let me know. I got World Series tickets that sold out in 30 seconds before. No way I missed those tickets.”
It isn’t just the thousands of fans that campus police will be monitoring. Captain Sutton says six Pitt County high school graduations will be hosted at Minges Coliseum over the weekend.
Sutton ensures that additional police force staff will be ready to handle the crowds,
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WITN) - A nationally-known civil rights attorney said the family of Andrew Brown, Jr. will be taken care of with a $3 million dollar settlement against Pasquotank County.
The family of Brown filed a $30 million civil rights lawsuit last year after the man was killed in April of 2021 by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies while they were serving drug-related warrants at his Elizabeth City home.
The killing captured national attention and sparked protests calling for justice. A protest was held as recently as April of this year to mark the one-year anniversary of Brown’s death.
The county’s insurance policy, which was provided by the North Carolina Counties Liability and Property Joint Risk Management Agency, will pay the limits of its policy, which is $2 million.
The remaining $1 million will be paid by a special appropriation approved by the Pasquotank County Commissioners.
“I still want to give my sincerest condolences to the Brown family,” Sheriff Tommy Wooten said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference in front of the Pasquotank County Courthouse. “Not a whole lot to say to make that much better. But it happened and we’re gonna try to stay positive and move forward from here.”
No state charges were brought against the deputies involved in the shooting, but the U.S. Justice Department has an ongoing federal investigation to see if any federal civil rights laws were violated.
Attorney Harry Daniels told reporters today that no amount of money can take the place of Brown who is survived by seven children.
“The settlement was designed to make sure Andrew Brown Jr.’s children are taken care of. It does that for years to come,” said Daniels. “You can read between the lines, as such, but they are satisfied with the settlement. Actually, they want other things to take place but at this point as far as the civil matter they are satisfied.”
Wooten said he hopes the settlement brings some closure to the events that have taken place and that a lot has happened over the past year, pointing out that his deputies are better trained now. “We have severely advanced our training to be able to do our job more efficiently,” said the sheriff.
When asked how much of the settlement money the family will receive, Daniels said that was confidential.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - It’s getting even more expensive to fill your tank in Eastern Carolina, and with summer on its way, drivers are worried about their plans being impacted.
“I went to the beach last week. About $120 I put in my car altogether,” Antwan Speller, a Greenville driver said as he waited for his car to fill up again.
It will cost you just about $4.52 a gallon to fill up your tank in Eastern Carolina, but that is just if you are using regular gas.
“They are outrageous,” Speller said of the prices. “It was about $80 to fill my car up right now, and you can see I take 93 [octane] so that’s $5 right there. It can’t get any worse than that.”
It isn’t just cars that need filling up. Certain boats and lawn mowers add to the bill at the pump, making this summer even more expensive than the last.
For James Perry, also a Greenville driver, the impact of the higher prices isn’t just seen in his wallet. He has noticed a change in everyone around him.
“It’s a stressful situation and you see it in people, but you don’t say nothing because you don’t want nothing to escalate,” Perry said. “I’m seeing it in a lot of people in the area that I stay in because you know you say something to them, they’ve got an attitude, and all of that’s because of these gas prices and things that are going on in life.”
Gas Buddy says the state’s rates now sit $0.45 higher than they were a month ago and more than $1.60 higher than a year ago.
As the weather warms up and people are looking to take a weekend trip to the coast, higher gas prices are getting in the way.
“It’s been pretty rough. I mean typically when I get to about a quarter of a tank, I’ll go ahead and top it off because I don’t like to get on fumes,” driver Chris Omyette said. “We went to Carolina Beach this weekend to visit my mom and had to get gas on the way back and I stopped at $40 hoping that maybe it would go down before I have to fill up again, but probably not the case.”
The U.S. Department of Energy says the average driver can improve their fuel economy by roughly 10%.
People are advised to help their wallets by accelerating and braking gently, using cruise control, and keeping tires properly inflated.
Children’s Miracle Network: ECU Health’s smallest patients get the care they need thanks to donations
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - More than 3,500 “Happy birthdays!” are wished to new babies at ECU Health every year, and while the goal is to send the family home as soon as possible, some infants need further care.
At the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital, everything comes in a smaller size.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to these tiny patients.
“The sickest of the sick will come here because we have all of the pediatric subspecialties that we need to help address any concerns,” said NICU medical director Dr. Ryan Moore. “We have just higher level of capabilities.”
Premature babies and infants needing specialized care come to the NICU for help to grow from Dr. Moore and his staff.
Thanks to years of funding from the Children’s Miracle Network, they have the technology to make that happen.
One of the NICU’s most used tools are isolettes that mimic a mother’s womb.
“Having the ability to maintain their temperature is so much easier with this technology,” said NICU nurse manager Allyson Yelverton. “We have the option to wean them out of actually staying in an isolette, all computerized thanks to this program.”
Close by is another gadget thanks to donations from CMN: a NIC-View camera giving parents a nonstop live feed of their new additions.
“They really are awesome,” said Lyndsey Odom, a nurse on the floor. “I can’t imagine going back to not having them and having parents that live 45 minutes or an hour away, even longer, and not being able to see their babies while they’re at work. I can’t imagine going back to that.”
Parents are taking note of these improvements. Some travel from other counties specifically for these technologies.
With more patients, comes the need to expand, and that is fueled by donors.
“They can help with building new spaces so we can support even more babies than we do now,” explained Dr. Moore. “It feeds right back into the children’s hospital and the community.”
When those babies get all the help they need from the isolettes, they head right where they belong: home.
“It is so great to see them from where they start to where they are ending up,” said Dr. Moore. “They go through so much, some of these babies, but when they do make it home, it’s just amazing to look back over the story and see what they’ve accomplished.”
On their way out the NICU doors, each child receives a parting gift from the Children’s Miracle Network.
Silver chains full of charms sit around their necks, each one symbolizing the milestones they’ve conquered and the village that got them there.
You can help more babies celebrate birthdays at Maynard Children’s Hospital! Just click here to learn more about how you can help.
NASH COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - What started out as a completely normal family dinner in early May soon turned into a test of skill and bravery for one Nash County student.
When gunshots flew across a Chili’s restaurant in Rocky Mount on May 6th, 17-year-old Mariah Poland says she did what most people couldn’t: she sprung into action to save a life.
Poland already juggles a lot on her plate.
She has a job, goes to church, takes college classes, and is graduating in just a couple of days from Southern Nash High School.
And Poland has a dream: to be a nurse and help take care of other people.
“Even the most simple things as brushing your teeth and brushing your hair... a lot of people can’t do that,” Poland said. “They can’t take care of themselves so they have to have someone there for them to do it.”
Poland enrolled in a nursing fundamentals class throughout high school where she practiced bedside manners and learned how to perform CPR.
“When we started clinicals, I realized maybe that was what I needed to do: become a nurse and take care of people,” Poland said.
Yet it wasn’t at a hospital or in a college classroom where Poland says her skills were put to the test. It was at a family dinner spot in Chili’s.
“I sat down and started eating my cheeseburger and I hear this loud noise,” Poland recounted. “It literally sounded like someone had threw a plate across the restaurant and it just shattered on the floor. And there was just a girl standing there holding a gun, pointed at the lady that was bleeding out on the floor.”
Police say the shooter was Nytica Battle. She has since been charged with first-degree murder among other charges.
A stray bullet hit a teenage Chili’s employee. He was able to make it to the back kitchen, and once the scene was safe, Poland says knew that was where she needed to go.
“I couldn’t find a first aid kit or anything so I grabbed some gloves out of the kitchen and I grabbed some towels,” Poland remembered. “I put the towels on his leg and held a lot of pressure up there for like ten minutes. I had his belt wrapped around it.”
The boy was hospitalized and has since recovered.
Now, the graduating senior is focused on what’s next. She has applied for a patient services assistant job at Nash General.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to go ahead and get my foot in the hospital,” Poland said.
First though, Poland will head to high school graduation. She is a part of the Pirate Promise program that will allow her to start classes at Nash Community College and transfer to East Carolina University to pursue nursing.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - City of Greenville leaders are picking up where they left off before the pandemic in revising the Uptown District’s parking system.
On Tuesday, these leaders held a public input session before moving forward to put the 2020-developed plans into place.
The city is looking to alter several things.
Free street parking could soon be a concept of the past. In the new plan, drivers will pay $1 an hour for up to three hours to be at a metered street spot.
Not much will change for hourly rates of surface lots and parking decks. Right now, the rate is 75 cents an hour with various max limits from two to eight hours.
Under the new guidelines, the first hour in a lot will be free and a 75-cent charge would start after that, with no max limit, except for the Chico’s lot on Reade Circle.
The biggest rate increase comes to those who work and live in the district. Currently, those people can lease a parking spot from the city for $66 a month or purchase an E-tag that grants access to select lots and street spots for $75 a year.
With the city’s proposition, people who live in Uptown Greenville would now have to pay $660 a year for an unreserved spot across the Uptown lots or $840 a year for a reserved spot where towing enforcement is the leaser’s responsibility.
People who work in Uptown Greenville would have to pay $480 a year to park near their jobs.
City leaders say they are taking into account the elements area stakeholders are concerned about.
“Maybe allowing a little bit more on-street free parking. We’ll also look at the timeframe that the parking rules are in place: should it end at 7:00 or 9:00 at night?” Michael Cowin, deputy city manager says. “And we’ll also look and see if we can look at the rates that would be required for employee/employer parking of Uptown.”
Still, before the plan makes it to the city council’s desks, it undergoes another round of public input.
“We need to find the other 100 people that were here in February and get everybody in a room together,” Michael Glenn, a property owner in Uptown Greenville said.
Glenn was surprised at the meeting because he noticed four people there, which was much different from the almost-full room the last time the city held a public input meeting.
“This is incredibly alarming that we’re having conversations about something as impactful as this and there’s four people here,” Glenn said.
Stakeholders hope the city will encourage more people to show up next time.
The final parking plan presentation is set to go before the Greenville City Council in June. If approved, its implementation would start as soon as July of this year.
GREENE & HYDE COUNTIES, N.C. (WITN) - Many parents’ fears are being realized as information from the State Department of Public Instruction shows that students, on average, fell behind their academic pace by two to 15 months after their instruction was interrupted by the pandemic.
“The school is a sad place without all the children in it, and we have them back. We are so glad to have them back, and they are so glad to be back,” said Mattamuskeet Elementary School Principal Allison Etheridge.
Instruction is looking more as it did pre-pandemic. Now on the other side of fully remote learning, data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction shows where students have fallen behind in their learning.
The deepest hit came in math education. Students also fell behind in English Language Arts by two months and one week to seven months and three weeks.
“We have gaps that we haven’t seen in many years,” said West Greene Elementary School Principal Phil Cook. “[Teachers] have done such an amazing job, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work that they all do every single day. They are growing those students, and I’m very excited to see the gains at the end of the school year because I know from the data we’re looking at right now, our kids are growing.”
NCDPI says students will need intensive academic intervention to make up for hundreds to even more than a thousand hours of class time they couldn’t capitalize on, if they want to get back on track.
“We had to really take a deep dive into how are we going to teach these skills to our students because we normally don’t have to do that,” Cook said. “We’ve had a lot of professional development, guiding resources, dug deep, and got our hands dirty and started working with our students at the small groups tables on differentiating the work to meet those needs. They’re coming to us with some weaknesses that we hadn’t seen in years before.”
It’s all hands on deck to fill in the gaps for some of the state’s youngest learners.
“You pull a student who’s in need whether it’s your student or if it’s not because ultimately, they’re all our students and the goal is to get everybody where they need to be,” Etheridge said.
The focus isn’t just on academics, but social and emotional learning, too.
“Our second-grade students had never had a normal school year,” Cook said. “We’ve made sure that our teachers knew about that so that when our students came to us."
In order to try to help students catch back up, the state has outlined several upcoming summer programs focused on learning recovery using the Public Instruction department’s pandemic relief funds.
This summer, a “Career Accelerator” program will be geared toward preparing sixth through 12th grade students for careers, either out of high school or out of college.
A “Summer Bridge Academy” will be available for rising Kindergarten, sixth grade, ninth grade, and 12th grade students.
Two weeks before the start of the next school year, those students will focus on math and English, projects, and field trips, among other things.
The state will also direct a math enrichment program for fourth through eighth graders for before-school and after-school programs designed to help students accelerate their math learning and get back on track.
Schools can apply for the program in July.
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.
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!