STATE BRIEFS, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2015
PROSECUTOR NOT RULING OUT HATE CRIME IN TRIPLE CHAPEL HILL SHOOTING
[CHAPEL HILL].Durham’s top prosecutor said Wednesday that he is not ruling out the possibility of a hate crime in the Tuesday evening shooting deaths of three Muslim students at a condo near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
District Attorney Roger Echols echoed comments earlier Wednesday by Chapel Hill’s police chief, who said investigators “will exhaust every lead” to determine if bias was a motive in the slayings of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Police were called shortly after 5 p.m. to Finley Forest condominiums on Summerwalk Circle in Durham County, where the victims were found shot in the head.
According to two 911 calls released Wednesday afternoon, callers reported hearing multiple gunshots.
Hours later, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who lives in the complex, surrendered to authorities in Chatham County and was charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
Police said a preliminary investigation shows the shooting might have been the result of an ongoing parking dispute. They said Hicks has been cooperating.
“We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated, and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case,” Police Chief Chris Blue said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly.”
STATE DEMOCRATS CHOOSE KEEVER FOR CHAIR
[PITTSBORO] As many had expected, NC Democratic Party First Vice Chair Patsy Keever was elected to become chairman of the beleaguered party by members of the State Executive Committee. Keever, who represents the moderate wing of the state Democratic Party, succeeded former Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller, who endured a controversial two-year term. Keever’s immediate tasks are to bring a divided party back together, retire the party’s debt, and fundraising for the 2016 presidential and gubernatorial elections.
GOV. MCCRORY DELIVERS STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS
[RALEIGH] Saying that his plan would make North Carolina a “national model,” Gov. Pat McCrory shared his “State of the State” bi-annual vision in a joint session of the state Legislature last week. McCrory said progress had been made during the first two years of his administration, with unemployment dropping and more job creation. The governor said the state deserves to “have the best of everything” by way of improved educational opportunities, transportation, energy and technology, in addition to greater government efficiency.
STATE PUBLIC SCHOOLS GET LETTER GRADES; POOR KIDS NOT FARING WELL
[CHARLOTTE] Public schools statewide with high concentrations of high poverty students did poor under North Carolina’s new performance grading system, released last week. The majority of high poverty schools received a D or F, with only one actually getting an A. Meanwhile schools with no more than 20 percent of students on free or reduced lunch received an A or an B. Only one received an F. State lawmakers say the new grading system helps parents better judge the job schools are doing. Critics say the grades are too simplistic and unfair.
SEANC DIRECTOR STEPS DOWN AMID PROBE
[RALEIGH]Dana Cope, the executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, resigned Tuesday amid published allegations that he used association money for his personal purposes. Cope admitted that he had “blurred the line between is personal and professional life. Published reports said a landscaping company that did work at Cope’s home also got a no-bid contract of $109,000 to do landscaping work at the SEANC headquarters. Another $8,000 was allegedly spent to pay for Cope’s flying lessons, in addition various personal credit card charges billed to the association. The Wake District Attorney’s Office has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to probe the allegations