Body Found in Search for 1 of 3 Missing Charlotte Coworkers

From WBTV.com, August 17, 2016

Police said they found a body while searching a property in northeast Charlotte for a woman who, along with two coworkers, has been at the center of a missing persons case over the past week.

Just before 4 p.m. Wednesday, officials said that a body had been found during a search for 23-year-old Tru Quan “Sandy” Le on the 11800 block of Plaza Road Extension, near I-485.

Sandy Le (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police)

Police have not released many details about the discovery, or what led them to search the area for Le. They have not said whether the body that was found is believed to be the missing woman.

The investigation began on August 10, when Le was reported missing. The next day, 17-year-old Alexandro Castillo and 19-year-old Ahmia Feaster were reported missing as well. Police immediately called the disappearances “suspicious.”

17-year-old Alexandro Castillo

19-year-old Ahmia Feaster

They all worked at Showmar’s on Little Rock Road.

Police said Castillo was picked up by Feaster on Thursday, August 11. Both were reported missing by their families the next day. Feaster’s Dodge Caliber that was found the next day, Saturday morning.

A private investigator told WBTV Feaster and Castillo called their families Saturday night to tell them they were safe. The families did not know where  were. Police said the next day that Le’s car had been recovered in Phoenix, AZ, and that Castillo and Feaster were believed to be in Mexico.

Police said during a press conference Monday that the case was being investigated as a homicide.

A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information in the case.

Published in: on August 17, 2016 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

CMPD Seeking Public’s Help in Identifying Armed Robbery Suspects

Surveillance Photos Show Child in Store During Armed Robbery

From http://www.wcnc.com, August 12, 2016

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying two armed robbery suspects.

Police say that around 10:30 a.m. Friday, August 12, 2016 two suspects entered the Cash America located at 2640 Freedom Drive in west Charlotte. According to police, both suspects pulled guns and demanded money from the clerk and left the scene in a getaway car.

There were no injuries during the incident, but a child is seen on surveillance photos in the store at the time of the robbery.

“There really no words to explain what’s going on in the picture there’s a kid in there man, sad to see that,” said Victor Gomez, a Charlotte resident.

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In one of the photos, a suspect appears to be pointing an automatic weapon at someone with a young child a few feet away.

“Crazy, it’s just getting ridiculous now,” said Tim Williams.

This isn’t the first Cash America Pawn that’s been targeted by criminals. Two months ago these armed-assailants strong-armed the Cash America Pawn off North Tryon Street.

The similarities between the two are startling.

“It’s not safe,” said Maria Garces.  “That is very frightening.”

CMPD says one of the suspects is described as a black male and was last seen wearing a red long sleeve shirt and gray pants. The second suspect is a black male and was last seen wearing a blue long sleeve shirt and gray pants.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

 

Published in: on August 13, 2016 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  

CMPD Seeking Public’s Help in Locating Missing Individuals in Cases Believed to be Related

From http://www.wcnc.com, August 10, 2016

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are currently searching for three missing individuals that they believe to be connected.

On Wednesday, August 10, family members of Tru Quan Le, who goes by “Sandy,” reported her missing from her home in the 9000 block of Seamill Road in southwest Charlotte. Police say she left her home on Tuesday, August 9 at around 9 p.m. and did not return. She was last seen driving a black four-door 2003 Toyota Corolla with NC license plates ZVE-1262.

On Thursday, 17-year-old Alexandro Castillo was reported missing from his home in north Charlotte. Police say family members told them that he was picked up from his home by Ahmia Feaster on Thursday and has not returned since.

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Feaster, 19, was reported missing by family members on Friday morning. She was last seen driving a red, four-door Dodge Caliber with NC license plates DDD-2681. Her last known whereabouts were Castillo’s home.

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CMPD says all three individuals know each other from work and believe their disappearances to be connected.
Anyone with information about these missing persons is asked to call 911 immediately.

Published in: on August 13, 2016 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Citing Increase in Crime CMPD Chief Requests More Officers, Support Staff

From http://www.wcnc.com by Rad Berky, May 5, 2016

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney again said he needs more officers on the street following the Thursday release of the crime stats for the first quarter of the year.

Those stats show a continuing trend with violent crimes up again.

Homicides did drop from 17 to 10, down 41% from a year ago.

However, other categories of violent crimes increased, including robberies that were up 21% and aggravated assault, up 17%

During an interview Thursday afternoon with NBC Charlotte’s Rad Berky, Chief Putney said he still wants more officers and support staff on the force.

“Our need is 125 and 80; that has not changed,” said Putney.

But instead of 125 new officers and 80 additional support staff, City Manager Ron Carlee is proposing the city hire less than half of those numbers: 50 new officers and 25 support staff members.

Asked if he could keep the city safe with that kind of reduction in the numbers he was hoping for, Putney said, “I can guarantee you that this is a step in what we need. A first step.”

The Chief put aside any question about his or the department’s relationship with Carlee, who is leaving office later this year.

Putney said they could work well as a team, even though he did not get the number of officers he wants– and he is not giving up.

“Will that help us? Yes. Is it sufficient? No.”

Published in: on May 14, 2016 at 12:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

CMPD Asking For Public’s Help in Finding Attempted Murder Suspect

From http://www.wccbcharlotte.com by Ashley Armstrong, May 12, 2016

Police are searching for a man charged with attempted murder last seen in the Charlotte area.

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27-year-old Matthew Tolson is wanted for Attempted 1st Degree Murder, Assault with a Deadly Weapon with Intent to Kill, Possession of Firearm by a Felon, Interfering with an Electronic Monitor, and Damage to Property.

Tolson was court ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device as a condition of his pre-trial release. On April 20th, Tolson cut off his electronic monitor and was last known to be in the 3200 block of Brixton Court in Charlotte.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Tolson should immediately contact the Violent Criminal Apprehension Team at 704-336-VCAT or call 911.

Published in: on May 14, 2016 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

4 MS-13 Gangmembers Convicted in Charlotte of Federal Racketeering Charges

From the Charlotte Observer by Cleve R. Wootson, Jr, April 12, 2016

Four Charlotte-area members of the El Salvadoran gang MS-13 were convicted on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, of federal racketeering charges.

Gang members leave the Federal courthouse in Charlotte after a major round-up. Federal authorities charged 37 suspected MS-13 gang members Wednesday. May 20, 2015, with racketeering and other charges in connection with a series of murders.

Gang members leave the Federal courthouse in Charlotte after a major round-up. Federal authorities charged 37 suspected MS-13 gang members Wednesday. May 20, 2015, with racketeering and other charges in connection with a series of murders. Davie Hinshaw

Miguel Zelaya, 20; Luis Ordonez-Vega, 36; Jorge Sosa, 24; and William Gavidia, 23, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity.

Zelaya and Ordonez-Vega were both convicted of murder in aid of racketeering in connection with two separate killings. Sosa was convicted of attempted murder in the aid of racketeering. They also faced state charges in connection with the crimes.

The four men were among 37 members of MS-13 charged with RICO conspiracy following an investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte. The group of state, federal and local law enforcement agencies seeks to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.

“Today’s guilty verdicts underscore that even though gang membership may in some ways ‘protect’ gangsters from outsiders, it certainly won’t protect them from the vast reach of the US. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners,” said Jill Westmoreland Rose, United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Thirty of the other gang members who were charged have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Zelaya, Ordonez-Vega, Gavidia and Sosa will be held in jail while they await sentencing.

From 2009 until about May 2015, the four men were counted among the 6,000 U.S. members of MS-13, according to the release. The gang’s members are mostly immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador and other Central and Latin American countries. Gang member pay dues that fund criminal activity in the United States and abroad. They’re also expected to protect the name and reputation of the gang.

Zelaya, who also goes by “Most Wanted” and “Ne Ne” is a member of MS-13’s “Coronados Little Cycos Salvatrucha” clique. On Dec. 18, 2013, he shot and killed Jose Orlando Ibarra, an associate of The Latin Kings, a rival gang, the release said.

Ordonez-Vega, also known as “Big Boy,” is a member of the Brentwood Locos Salvatrucha” clique, according to the news release. On June 6, 2013, Ordonez-Vega shot and killed Noel Navarro Hernandez in a strip mall parking lot in Charlotte, believing the victim was a member of a rival gang.

Sosa, who goes by “Koki” and “Loco” is a member of the “Charlotte Locotes Salvatrucha” clique. Prosecutors say he’s been involved in multiple gang-related crimes. In Feb. 2008, he flashed MS-13 gang signs at a rival gang member’s mother and pointed a gun at her while they were stopped in traffic. In June, 2013, he was involved in a gang-related shooting where he and another person followed victims in a neighborhood in Charlotte and opened fire with a high-caliber rifle, the release said.

Gavidia, also know as “Duro” is also a member of the “Coronados Little Cycos Salvatrucha” clique. He had often fought other gang members in clubs and admitted that he taxed drug dealers in MS-13-dominated clubs, authorities said.

Published in: on April 13, 2016 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

12 People Face Charges in Hidden Valley Roundup

From http://www.wbtv.com, April 13, 2016

Twelve people are facing drug charges in a joint federal and local operation, with emphasis on the Hidden Valley area in Charlotte.

The U.S. Attorney’s office announced 12 people are facing charges related to the possession and distribution of crack cocaine. On March 17, a federal grand jury returned the criminal indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday after eight of the defendants were arrested.

Angelo Brown, James Ratcliff, Derandell Stewart, Larry Reid Jr.,Breon Montrez Massey, Ronald Dean Coleman Jr., Thomas Decarlo Perry, Dale Mathews, Kenneth Reid, Kenneth Gray, Toney Robinson and Darius Robinson were named in the federal indictment.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the ATF conducted the joint investigation, which was aimed at reducing drug distribution and drug-related criminal activity. The investigation was meant to increase safety in Mecklenburg County with special emphasis on the Hidden Valley area.

“In this particular indictment we’ve really focused on the Hidden Valley area and again to clean up segments of that community that needed to make it better for the citizens that live there, U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said.

The 12 people are charged with conspiracy to distribute, posses with intent to distribute crack cocaine and other drug-related offenses.

Federal warrants were issued against Ratcliff, Coleman, Mathews and Darius Robinson.

“There is some gang activity that is involved,” Rose said, but says “this isn’t at the level of the gang problems we’ve seen in Hidden valley before.”

The 12 defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

“We’ve done beutification projects as well in Hidden Valley, Rose says calling Hidden Valley “a great little neighborhood”

“Yes it does have some crime pockets and yes it has some crime problems but we also know it’s not a bad place to live and we are doing our part to help get that message out,” Rose says.

Published in: on April 13, 2016 at 7:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

CMPD Seeking Public’s Help in Identifying Suspect in Jewelery Store Robbery

From http://www.wbtv.com, April 13, 2016

Police are hoping video will help you catch the man involved in a violent armed robbery. He goes into a popular Charlotte jewelry store and ties up a woman.

Video from the Brownlee Jewelers robbery (Source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police)

The video shows a man dressed in all black with a baseball cap on- enter the Brownlee Jewelers in Steele Creek in southwest Charlotte.

Police say he told the employee that he wanted to look for charm bracelets. But that’s just a ploy, police say. As soon as the worker turns her back – the robber strikes.

He puts the gun in the back of her back, police say, and says “this is a robbery.”

CMPD officer Tori Roddey says they know the suspect didn’t drive there because he pulls a motorcycle helmet out of a black duffle bag right after he pulls out the gun. He first asks for cash, but gets nervous once at the cash register.

“He keeps asking her about sensors. Are you sounding an alarm? Are there sensors. So he’s very nervous and skeptical,” Roddey said.

Too scared to mess with the money, he turns his attention to the jewelry – specifically, the engagement rings.

Officer Roddey says the robber then takes the worker to the back and ties her hands and feet with a pair of zip ties. But one thing that lets him know the suspect is an amateur – someone he calls a criminal with a conscience.

“The guy says, ‘I have five kids, I have no other choice’,” Roddey said. “So telling her why he was doing this and also – he was polite enough to ask her are these ties too tight?”

If you know anything, call Crimestoppers at 704-334-1600. You can remain anonymous and could get a reward.

Published in: on April 13, 2016 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is It a Crime for a Transgendered Person to Use the “Wrong” Bathroom?

From North Carolina Criminal Law, a UNC School of Governemnt Blog, April 4, 2016

The General Assembly recently passed, and the Governor recently signed, HB 2 (S.L. 2016-3), popularly known as “the bathroom bill.” This post considers whether it is now a crime for a transgendered person to use the bathroom of the sex with which he or she identifies.

More than bathrooms. The bill is about more than bathrooms, as discussed in detail in this blog post by my colleague Trey Allen. But it does include provisions about bathrooms, and those provisions are the focus of this post.

No effect on private businesses’ bathrooms. The bill concerns only bathrooms operated by school boards and other state and local government entities. It doesn’t prevent private businesses from making multiple occupancy bathrooms available by gender identity.

Focus on multiple occupancy bathrooms. The focus of the bill is multiple occupancy bathrooms. Although some of the language isn’t perfectly clear — at least to me — it seems that government entities have greater discretion in determining access to single occupancy bathrooms.

Government entities must establish single-sex bathrooms, with sex determined by birth certificate. The pertinent language for school boards is in Section 1.1 of the bill: they “shall establish single-sex multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities.” Additional provisions in Section 1.2 of the bill clarify that “sex” means biological sex as stated on a person’s birth certificate. The language for other public agencies is in Section 1.3 of the bill: they “shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex,” again as stated on a person’s birth certificate.

The objective of the bill appears to be to establish a policy that, for multiple occupancy bathrooms run by government entities, a transgendered person whose birth certificate does not match his or her gender identity should use the bathroom designated for the sex listed on his or her birth certificate. The merits of this rule are beyond the scope of this post.

Is it a crime for a transgendered person to use the “wrong” bathroom? Almost a year ago, I posted about whether it is a crime for a man to use the ladies’ room. I suggested that a man using the ladies’ room might well be trespassing, or breaking and entering. At that time, I didn’t address bathroom usage by transgendered people. I’ll tackle that issue now.

In general, before HB 2 and for bathrooms not affected by the law, I doubt that a sign on a bathroom door showing a stick figure in a skirt would render criminal the use of such a bathroom by a transgendered female, whether or not she has undergone sex reassignment surgery. Even if the sign includes the word “women” or a synonym, I doubt that a transgendered female would be trespassing or breaking and entering by using the bathroom in question. Such a person identifies as a woman, typically dresses as a woman, and is recognized as a woman by many members of the public. As to her, the sign is ambiguous at best.

After HB 2, however, the situation may be different for the bathrooms covered by the bill. The bill is plainly intended to require that each person use the bathroom designated for the sex listed on his or her birth certificate, and the provisions of the bill arguably reduce the ambiguity associated with typical bathroom signage. Therefore, there is an argument that a transgendered person using the “wrong” bathroom would be doing so “without authorization,” which is the key to the first-degree trespass statute, G.S. 14-159.12, or even “wrongfully,” which is the key to misdemeanor breaking or entering, G.S. 14-54.

A possible counterargument would be that HB 2 mandates that various government entities limit the use of their multiple occupancy bathrooms by biological sex, but that HB 2 itself does not directly govern the use of bathrooms. In other words, the bill states that school boards “shall establish” bathrooms compliant with the bill, and that school boards and public agencies “shall require” that multiple occupancy bathrooms be used only by a single biological sex, but arguably leaves the actual establishing and requiring to the government entities mentioned in the bill. On this view, a transgendered person using the “wrong” bathroom would not be violating any criminal law unless and until the entity in control of the bathroom in question adopts a policy implementing HB 2.

I don’t know whether HB 2 was intended to criminalize the use of the “wrong” bathroom by transgendered people. It may be worth noting that HB 2 itself contains no criminal penalties.

Constitutional and other issues. HB 2 has been challenged in court. Opponents of the bill argue that it violates the Equal Protection Clause as well as federal statutory law. Whether the bathroom-related provisions of the bill will survive remains to be seen.

Investigative issues. Finally, I have been asked how a law enforcement officer might investigate an allegation that a transgendered person is using, or has used, the “wrong” bathroom. My impression is that most officers will want nothing to do with such an investigation, unless there is some suggestion of inappropriate activity in the bathroom. Attempting to determine the biological sex of a bathroom patron may be difficult and will certainly be intrusive. Most people don’t carry their birth certificates around, nor would an officer normally have any authority to require a person to present his or her birth certificate. And the idea of an officer seeking to inspect the physical characteristics of a bathroom patron rings all sorts of legal alarm bells. So even if use of the “wrong” bathroom is a crime in theory, it may be difficult to investigate and charge in practice.

Published in: on April 5, 2016 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is It Illegal for a Man to Use the Ladies Room?

From North Carolina Criminal Law, a UNC School of Government Blog, by Jeff Welty, May 6, 2015

In Charlotte, there is a controversy over whether a transgendered person should use the bathroom assigned to his or her biological sex or to the sex with which he or she identifies. The Charlotte Observer has the story here. This post doesn’t address that issue directly, but instead concerns a related question that the story prompted me to ponder: Is it illegal for a man to use the ladies’ room?

There doesn’t seem to be much law directly addressing this topic, or the similar if not identical issue of whether it is illegal for a woman to use the men’s room. A few states have considered enacting specific crimes targeting restroom usage by the opposite sex, as noted by the Huffington Post here and here. But it doesn’t sound as though any of them have passed, leaving me to consider more generally-applicable crimes.

Here are the main possibilities:

Trespass.

There’s a strong argument that a man entering a ladies’ room is a person who has, without authorization, entered a building of another and so is guilty of First-Degree Trespass, NCGS 14-159.12. One might argue that a restroom is not a building but a room within a building. However, it may qualify as a building under NCGS 14-159.11, which defines the term as “any structure or part of a structure . . . enclosed so as to permit reasonable entry only through a door.” Supporting that interpretation is Com. v. White, 538 A.2d 887 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1988), where the court affirmed a conviction for criminal trespass after the male defendant entered the women’s restroom of an athletic club. The court ruled that the restroom was a “separately secured or occupied portion” of the building that was reserved for women’s use. Update: See also In re S.M.S., 196 N.C. App. 170 (2009) (affirming an adjudication of second-degree trespass after a boy entered a girls’ locker room, and stating that “[t]he sign marked ‘Girl’s Locker Room’ was reasonably likely to give respondent notice that he was not authorized to go into the girls’ locker room”).

Breaking or entering. There’s also a reasonable argument that a man entering a ladies’ room has wrongfully entered a building and so is guilty of misdemeanor breaking or entering under G.S. 14-54. Whether the bathroom is a building itself or is instead a part of a building may be irrelevant under State v. Perkins, 181 N.C. App. 209 (2007) (affirming a conviction of breaking or entering after a defendant entered the public reception area of a law firm, then entered “nonpublic space reserved for firm employees”; the entry into the nonpublic space rendered his entry into the building as a whole unlawful).

Disorderly conduct. In some states, incidents of this kind may be charged as disorderly conduct. See Com. v. Young, 535 A.2d 1141 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1987) (affirming a conviction for disorderly conduct after a male defendant entered a women’s restroom and opened a toilet stall being used by a female). But North Carolina’s disorderly conduct statute, G.S. 14-288.4, is limited to specific types of disruptive behavior, and I don’t see anything in the statute that would cover inappropriate bathroom usage.

Indecent exposure. Although indecent exposure might be applicable in some circumstances, most instances of a person of one sex using a restroom assigned to the other sex probably do not involve the showing of private parts required by the indecent exposure statute, G.S. 14-190.9.

Peeping. Although peeping might be applicable in some circumstances, most instances of a person of one sex using a restroom assigned to the other sex probably do not involve sufficient secrecy on the part of the person to implicate the peeping statute, G.S. 14-202.

Common sense. All of the analysis above should be considered alongside a bit of common sense. If a janitor of one sex cleans an empty restroom assigned to the opposite sex, or if a child of one sex accompanies a parent of another sex into a restroom assigned to the parent’s sex, neither the janitor nor the child should be hauled into court. If one bathroom at a gas station is out of order and patrons of both sexes take turns using the remaining bathroom, I can’t imagine a criminal charge resulting. But if a man waltzes into a ladies’ room, for no good reason, my guess is that a charge of trespass, or perhaps breaking or entering, could stick.

Published in: on April 2, 2016 at 11:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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