Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EDT
Activists urge better online public access to police records
(Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com)
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Asheville activists say better online public access to police records could help ease community mistrust of law enforcement heightened after the beating of a black pedestrian.
Local media report that members of Code for Asheville told city leaders on Tuesday that the accountability is needed because neither the public nor city council knew about the incident for nearly six months.
City officials have given the U.S. Attorney’s Office records related to former Asheville Police Officer Chris Hickman’s beating of Johnnie Rush last August. The earliest subpoena was on March 5, five days after the Asheville Citizen-Times published leaked police body camera footage that showed Hickman choke and strike Rush while holding him on the ground after shocking him with a Taser.
Hickman was later charged with felony assault by strangulation.
BOY SWEPT TO SEA
Boy swept out to sea while walking on North Carolina beach
KITTY HAWK, N.C. (AP) – Authorities have suspended their search for a four-year-old boy they say was swept out to sea while walking with his mother on a North Carolina beach.
The U.S. Coast Guard tells media outlets the boy and his mother were walking along the shore in Kitty Hawk on Wednesday afternoon when a wave hit the boy and carried him out into the ocean. Officials say the mother ultimately lost sight of her son as he went further from the shore.
A helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City and Coast Guard boats from the Oregon Inlet station together combed 130 square miles before suspending the search at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The boy has not been identified.
DUKE ENERGY-RATE INCREASE
NC’s AG sues over Duke Energy consumer charges for coal ash
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s attorney general is challenging regulators for allowing Duke Energy to start charging consumers hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up coal ash dumps, plus a potential profit margin.
State Attorney General Josh Stein’s office on Wednesday said he considers the decision by the North Carolina Utilities Commission to be “unlawful, unjust, unreasonable, or unwarranted.” Stein is appealing the February decision to the state Supreme Court.
The commission allowed the company’s Duke Energy Progress operating subsidiary to charge customers $232 million over five years for coal ash clean-up costs racked up already. Regulators simultaneously assessed the company a $30 million mismanagement penalty for what it called pervasive shortcomings in handling coal ash.
Duke Energy spokeswoman Meredith Archie says the commission’s decision was fair to the company and consumers.
Transgender inmate sues prison over witchcraft rights
(Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – A transgender inmate is suing a North Carolina prison, saying it’s blocking her from practicing witchcraft.
The Charlotte Observer reports 40-year-old Jennifer Ann Jasmaine says in the lawsuit that chaplains at the all-male Lanesboro Correctional Institution have violated her constitutional rights by restricting when, where and how she can practice Wicca, the religion based on ancient pagan beliefs.
Jasmaine also says Lanesboro refused to provide her with the foods Wiccans are supposed to eat.
Lanesboro is a maximum-security prison about 45 miles (70 kilometers) southeast of Charlotte.
The lawsuit, filed this month, seeks a jury trial and $1 in damages from each of the chaplains.
A spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety declined comment to the newspaper and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Woman arrested in North Carolina arcade shooting death
SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) – A woman has been arrested in the shooting death of a man at a North Carolina arcade over the weekend.
Local media outlets reported that 42-yea-rold Dedric Michelle Mason of Salisbury was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree murder.
Forty-five-year-old James Christopher Davis was shot and wounded early Saturday at the Fishzilla Arcade. He died about two hours later in a hospital.
Mason is being held in the Rowan County jail. She has a court appearance scheduled Thursday. It was not known if she has a lawyer yet.
Police have not released a motive for the shooting.
TEEN DEATH-STEPFATHER CHARGED
North Carolina man charged in stepdaughter’s shooting death
(Information from: WITN-TV, http://www.witn.com/)
KENANSVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Authorities say the stepfather of a North Carolina teenager found shot to death in their home is now accused in her death.
WITN in Greenville reports court records in Duplin County say Lathan Thurman is charged with felony involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jessica Ramsey on Feb. 7. Ramsey was a senior at South Lenoir High School who was found with a gunshot wound to the head.
Two weeks ago, Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace announced that an investigation was complete and in the hands of the district attorney.
LIQUOR BY THE DRINK
North Carolina county set for 5th vote on mixed drink sales
(Information from: The Free Press, http://www.kinston.com)
SNOW HILL, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina county is preparing for a fifth vote on mixed drink sales.
The Free Press of Kinston reports Greene County has voted three times on the proposal and the town of Snow Hill has voted once. The last vote came in 2015, when the measure failed by more than 100 votes.
The vote is scheduled for May 8.
Greene County economic developer Rick Davis said the town and county would see an increase in sales tax revenues from the sale and resale of liquor to restaurant customers.
Frank Rice, a Baptist pastor at a Hookerton church, said opponents are concerned that people will go out to drink and then get behind the wheel of a car. Opponents plan a rally on Thursday.
Western North Carolina zoo to get red pandas this fall
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A zoo in western North Carolina will be getting some red pandas this fall.
Media outlets reported that Asheville City Council this week approved about $185,000 to build a red panda exhibit and breeding project area at the Western North Carolina Nature Center.
Nature Center Director Chris Gentile concedes that red pandas are not native to western North Carolina like the bears and coyotes and some other animals at the compound. But Gentile says animals similar to the red panda lived in the Southern Appalachians millions of years ago.
The exhibit will include a den and breeding area, as well as an interpretive exhibit and viewing area.
Construction is to begin later this spring. The zoo already is growing bamboo to feed them.