Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
VIRUS OUTBREAK-NORTH CAROLINA
Head of N.C. unemployment office replaced by ex-legislator
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has replaced the head of the state unemployment benefits office with a former legislator. The agency has been struggling to handle an onslaught of pandemic-related job loss claims. Cooper’s Commerce Department announced on Wednesday that Pryor Gibson is the new assistant secretary overseeing the Division of Employment Security. Out of the job is Lockhart Taylor, who apologized last week to citizens testifying at a legislative hearing about their problems obtaining benefits. Taylor said there have been more claims filed since mid-March than in the previous six years.
Police: Charlotte bus driver fatally struck man, fled scene
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – A public bus driver in Charlotte has been accused of hitting and killing a man standing at a bus stop and then fleeing the scene without administering any aid. News outlets report Luis Garcia was charged with a felony hit-and-run following the victim’s death Tuesday morning. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said officers found the victim lying on the street in front of the bus stop when they got to the scene. Police say the 58-year-old victim attempted to get Garcia to stop the bus before he was struck. Garcia’s employer said Wednesday he was fired following his arrest.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-CASINO REOPENING
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort reopening for patrons
CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina casino says it’s ready to reopen its doors to patrons. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort says it’s planning to reopen at 6 a.m. on Thursday. On its Facebook page, the casino says it will operate at 30% capacity in keeping with North Carolina and tribal guidelines and operating with social distancing in place. The casino says most restaurants will be open with limited seating as well as carryout options. Other amenities will also open in phases as determined by the state and local guidelines. Officials say the casino gaming areas will temporarily be non-smoking.
Winston-Salem police report three homicides in 5 days
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – Police in a North Carolina city are investigating three homicides in a five-day stretch, the latest being the death of a man after an apparent shooting. The Winston-Salem Journal reports Winston-Salem Police Department spokesman Lt. Gregory Dorn said police first got a 911 call on Wednesday about a body lying in the road, áand soon after received calls about people hearing a single gunshot. Dorn said when officers and emergency personnel arrived, the body of 27-year-old Kelvin Juan Bonner was found lying in the road in front of his home.
FATAL APARTMENT FIRE
Unattended charcoal grill blamed for fire that killed 2
KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. (AP) – Investigators say a fire that killed a North Carolina woman and her son last week was started by an unattended charcoal grill. The Virginian Pilot of Norfolk reports that a news release from the town of Kill Devil Hills says the fire started on the wooden deck of the ground floor of an apartment in the town on the Outer Banks. According to investigators, the unattended grill was close to combustible materials on the deck. Authorities say the fire killed 39-year-old Ann Rachelle Horton and her 9-year-old son, Sebastian Lopez.
Bill seeks easier N.C. ballot access in fall during pandemic
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Lawmakers in North Carolina are advancing legislation that would allow voters to have more options in requesting absentee ballots this November and would give officials funds to keep precincts clean and staffed. The measure that cleared two House committees on Wednesday prepares for November’s high-stakes election to occur amid the pandemic. The bill would expand the options to seek and return absentee ballot forms. The number of required witnesses on the ballot envelope would decrease from two to one. The bill heading to the House floor Thursday also distributes money to help with election security, equipment and poll-worker recruitment.
Bertha forms, hits South Carolina coast, dissipates in a day
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Tropical Storm Bertha surprised the South Carolina coast, forming and making landfall within two hours, bringing a poor beach day of rain and gusty winds, but no major problems. Forecasters expected the bad weather Wednesday, but didn’t predict it to organize so quickly and become the second named storm before the official start of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. Bertha was named around 8 a.m. Wednesday, was onshore east of Charleston by 9:30 a.m. It was downgraded to a tropical depression by 2 p.m. Like almost all storms with heavy rain, several streets flooded in Charleston, leaving ankle- to calf-high brown water mixed with trash from knocked over cans Wednesday.
N.C. bond packages resurface after veto crumbled cash plan
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Borrowing money to pay for North Carolina government buildings and roads is surfacing again at the General Assembly after a pay-as-you-go construction expansion plan crumbled last year beneath a veto. Republican House Speaker Tim Moore and other representatives filed a measure this week that would put a $1.9 billion debt referendum on this November’s ballot. The full House sought a similar package last year, but Senate Republicans wanting to build using conventional tax revenues and without debt won out in legislative budget negotiations. Then, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the GOP’s budget in part because he favored a debt package.