News Roundup

The Greensboro News & Record reports that Christopher Spencer of Pilot Mountain has become the first North Carolinian to face federal charges in connection with the deadly insurrection at the United States Capitol earlier this month.  The report says that Spencer has been charged with obstructing official proceedings, unlawful entry, and disorderly conduct.  Investigators apparently were aided by Facebook livestreams Spencer allegedly posted showing him encouraging others to kick open doors in the building and yelling obscenities at police officers.  His father Winston Spencer told the News & Record that his son’s participation in the incident “has been blown out of proportion.”  Keep reading for more news.

APD Transparency Dashboard.  WLOS recently reported that the Asheville Police Department has launched an online public data dashboard designed to provide the greater transparency and accountability with regard to the department’s operations.  In a message on the homepage of the new dashboard, Chief David Zack says that the tool is meant to “provide our residents with the information needed to work collaboratively with law enforcement to develop solutions to make our community safer.”  Among other things, the dashboard provides information about the demographics of the department relative to the community as a whole and provides crime stats and maps.

Chaplain Passes.  WRAL reports that Person County lost a respected member of the community this week when Merritt Buchanan passed due to complications from COVID-19.  Buchanan served as an Emergency Chaplain for volunteer fire departments, hospitals, and police departments and spent much of his time in recent months comforting patients and health care workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.  Buchanan spent two weeks in the ICU at Duke, and upon hearing of his death first responders went in the middle of the night to escort his body back to Person County in a long motorcade.

Man Leaves Sanctuary.  WRAL reports that a man who has been living in the sanctuary of a Durham church for the past three years plans to return to his home in Raleigh this weekend after the announcement that under the Biden administration the Department of Homeland Security will pause many deportations for 100 days while reviewing national immigration policy.  Jose Chicas took up residence at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in 2017 after being informed by ICE that he was subject to deportation due to convictions more than 20 years ago for impaired driving and domestic violence.  The WRAL report says that St. John’s plans to hold a send-off event for Chicas today.

Flint.  Back in 2017 the News Roundup noted that several Michigan officials were facing criminal charges as part of an investigation into lead contamination in the water in the city of Flint.  In 2019, those charges were dropped as part of what The Detroit News characterized as a “rebooting” of the probe by a new prosecution team.  The investigation recently was back in the headlines, with the PBS Newshour reporting last week that former Michigan health director Nick Lyon once again has been charged with involuntary manslaughter related to the deaths of nine people who contracted Legionnaire’s disease from the lead-tainted water.  In addition to the charges against Lyon, former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was charged with misdemeanor willful neglect of duty for his role in the affair.

CJIL Research Fellow.  As a reminder from last week, the SOG’s Criminal Justice Innovation Lab, led by Jessie Smith, plans to hire a Postdoctoral Research Fellow who will examine issues of racial equity in the criminal justice system.  More details about the position and instructions for applying are available here.

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