Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EDT
29 people die in NC boating accidents so far this year
(Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com)
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s Wildlife Commission says 29 people have died in boating accidents this year, making it the deadliest in the past 20 years.
Commission officials tell the Asheville Citizen-Times that victims weren’t wearing life jackets in 23 of those deaths. In six deaths, alcohol was a factor.
The commission will activate its annual “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign this Labor Day weekend. In North Carolina, a driver or boat operator with a blood-alcohol concentration that meets or exceeds .08 percent could be arrested.
Commission records dating to 1981 show the highest number of deaths in boating accidents was 37 in 1990. Last year, the number of deaths fell to a low of 13.
CHILDREN FORCED TO WORK-DEATH
Religious leader charged in child slave labor case dies
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A religious leader charged with using children as slave labor has died while awaiting trial in North Carolina.
Attorney Allen Rogers tells news outlets 67-year-old John C. McCollum died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at his ranch.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office has said McCollum billed himself as the “chief apostle” of McCollum Ranch, the home of an “alternative religious group.” Former members of the organization told authorities McCollum had made children aged 9 to 17 work as slaves at four fish markets, which provided income for his compound.
He was arrested in December and released in May, when his bail was lowered partly in light of his health. McCollum had told authorities he didn’t think he’d committed any crimes.
Related cases against nine others are expected to move forward.
NORTH CAROLINA-BALLOT BATTLE
Court: Cooper, NAACP can’t fast-track amendment challenges
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s highest court has rejected requests by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and a civil rights group to hear immediately challenges to a pair of constitutional amendments Republicans rewrote earlier this week.
The state Supreme Court issued a flurry of orders late Wednesday that basically prevent Cooper and the state NAACP from using their previous lawsuits that last week blocked successfully old versions of the two amendments.
The GOP-controlled legislature altered the amendments to comply with a lower-court decision that the referendums were misleading. With time dwindling before November ballots are printed, Cooper and the NAACP asked the justices if they could use their old lawsuits to challenge the new questions. The court said no.
The governor and NAACP may have to decide between filing new lawsuits or giving up.
CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS-NORTH CAROLINA
Officers told stand aside as ‘Silent Sam’ fell, report says
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – According to documents obtained by a television station, a North Carolina police chief with crowd control told his officers to stand aside as protesters tore down a century-old Confederate monument during a protest at the University of North Carolina.
WRAL.com reported Wednesday evening its public records request obtained about 400 pages of emails and texts to and from Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue. It says messages show Blue closely monitored the Aug. 20 protest as his officers backed up UNC’s campus police before protesters tore down the statue known as “Silent Sam.”
The statue was brought to the ground after several hundred demonstrators gathered, some raising banners to conceal the move.
WRAL reports Blue instructed officers “Let’s give them lots of space” and “stay way out.”
A Town of Chapel Hill spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting the texts and emails.
North Carolina school safety committee meeting in Charlotte
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina House is taking a committee studying school safety challenges and improvements on the road.
The House panel plans to hold six meetings across the state, with the first being held Thursday at a Central Piedmont Community College campus in west Charlotte.
The House Select Committee on School Safety was formed following the Florida school shootings in February.
Several policy changes and funding proposals the committee recommended to the chamber before this year’s General Assembly’s work session became law. The state budget found $28 million in new funds. Much of that new funding provided grants for school districts and law enforcement to hire additional campus police officers, nurses, psychologists and social workers.
The Republican-controlled committee has stayed clear of gun-control proposals.
Ruling essentially ensures new party’s candidates can run
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A court ruling giving more time to election officials to respond to a lawsuit filed by a new North Carolina political party essentially ensures the party will have a few more candidates on November ballots.
U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan wrote Tuesday the state elections board now has until Oct. 1 to answer the lawsuit filed by the Constitution Party of North Carolina and three of its candidates for legislative and local offices.
The party challenged a new law preventing people who lost in May primaries from running for the same office with a new party this year. Flanagan issued a preliminary injunction last week blocking the law from applying to the candidates because it was retroactive. State officials haven’t appealed that injunction.
Ballots will likely be finalized in September.
Lawsuits against pork giant delayed
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Several lawsuits against the world’s largest pork producer are on pause.
WRAL-TV reports that Smithfield Foods and its hog farm neighbors have asked to push back proceedings in upcoming lawsuits.
Both sides requested the delays, saying they had agreed to pursue options for “alternative resolution” to future trials.
A federal jury decided earlier this month that the world’s largest pork producer should pay $473.5 million to neighbors of three North Carolina industrial-scale hog farms for unreasonable nuisances they suffered from odors, flies and rumbling trucks
That decision made three straight multi-million-dollar losses for the Hong Kong company.
Consultant urges better body cam review after police beating
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – An external review of a white North Carolina officer beating a black pedestrian urged more thorough internal reviews of body camera footage to catch police behavior problems before they escalate.
The report on Asheville police procedures surrounding former officer Christopher Hickman’s case was presented Tuesday by a consultant hired by the city.
21CP Solutions noted Hickman was described by a former supervisor as “abrasive” and a “class clown.”
The report said even before the Aug. 2017 beating that resulted in criminal charges, Hickman’s body camera captured him in behavior that was “harmful to the community.” It didn’t provide specifics.
It urged better camera audits, especially for officers who’ve shown problems.
Hickman has been charged with assault in the pedestrian beating. Hickman’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to an email Wednesday.