News Roundup

Tens of thousands of residences and businesses in Moore County began the week without electricity after two electrical substations in the county were damaged by gunfire on Saturday evening. Federal, state and local authorities are investigating, and CNN reports that authorities recovered nearly two dozen shell casings from a high-powered rifle at the scenes. Authorities believe the person or persons who damaged the substations knew what they were doing, but have not identified a motive for their actions. The News and Observer reported on widespread speculation that the attacks were related to a drag queen show in Southern Pines that began just as the substations were damaged, but CNN reports that investigators have no evidence connecting those events. Duke Energy completed repairs Wednesday, and nearly everyone’s power had been restored by Thursday morning. A reward of up to $75,000 is being offered to anyone who provides information leading to an arrest and conviction.

ShotSpotter forums in Fayetteville. Last month the Fayetteville City Council approved a one-year contract with ShotSpotter, a California gunshot detection software company, on the condition that the city host public forums to get community input. The first two meetings were Wednesday and Thursday, with a third virtual meeting scheduled for today at noon. The ShotSpotter system employs acoustic sensors placed on poles, rooftops and other elevated areas to detect gunshots, triangulate the location, and alert law enforcement. ShotSpotter claims that its system enables rapid response to gunfire, most of which is not reported to 911, saves the lives of gunshot victims, and improves the recovery of evidence. Critics caution that ShotSpotter is deployed overwhelmingly in minority communities and that alerts (some of which may be false) can contribute to over-policing. CBS17 reports that five North Carolina towns and cities, Goldsboro, Greenville, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem, already use ShotSpotter. The system was set to deploy in Durham earlier this year, but its launch has been delayed.

Former Granville County Sheriff convicted for falsifying records. A jury found former Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins guilty on Thursday of obtaining property by false pretenses and obstruction of justice for falsifying records about in-service and firearms training to maintain state certification for himself and others. WRAL reports that Wilkins received an active sentence to a minimum term of 18 months to begin immediately.

Suspect in Club Q shooting charged with 305 counts. In national news, Colorado prosecutors have formally charged Anderson Aldrich, the person accused of opening fire in a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub on November 19, killing five and injuring at least 17 others, with 305 criminal counts, including 10 counts of first-degree murder, 86 of attempted murder, and 48 of bias-motivated crimes. The New York Times reports that prosecutors charged two counts of murder for each person killed on the basis that the defendant acted both with deliberation and intent and with extreme indifference toward human life. District Attorney Michael Allen told reporters in a news conference that “[w]hen you file 305 counts in a case, that tells the public, this community, this state and this nation that we are taking this case as serious as we possibly can, meaning that we are going to prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”

Griner released. Finally, in international news, WBNA start Brittney Griner was released from Russian detention this week in a prisoner swap that involved the United States’ release of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death.”  Griner was arrested in a Russian airport in February after authorities found two cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. She pled guilty to drug charges and was sentenced to nine years in prison. The United States was not able to secure as part of the deal the release of American Paul Whelan who was arrested four years ago by Russian authorities who alleged he was a spy. US officials condemned as unfair Whelan’s subsequent trial, which led to his conviction and a 16-year sentence. President Biden promised on Thursday that the United States would never give up on Whelan.

I hope you all have a safe and relaxing weekend.