WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber says he believes street justice is overtaking courtroom justice in Wilmington. Now the civil rights group is calling for change.
During a news conference today, Barber called for the state to investigate recent officer-involved shootings in New Hanover County that killed three people. This morning he took his concerns to local leaders.
Barber came to the port city tuesday to deliver a letter calling for immediate action regarding what he calls “excessive force” by officers.
“The NAACP is concerned with the pattern of street justice rather than courthouse justice that emerges from the study of these four cases,” Barber said.
District Attorney Ben David says there is a problem with street justice in Wilmington, but in a different way.
“In the sense that there are young men shooting and killing each other and then failing to report it when we are asking them the questions on who is doing it. They are engaging in what we call stop snitching culture,” David said. “I don’t believe that is happing with the police taking the law into their own hands.”
Barber specifically mentioned the shooting death of Brandon Smith, who was wanted for shooting a deputy. The SBI’s investigation into the October shooting by two New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputies and an ATF agent led the District Attorney to decide the shooting was justified and no criminal charges should be filed.
Barber did not want to answer specific questions about each case or the months of gang violence that have plagued Wilmington. He did say the NAACP is concerned officers are becoming “judge, jury and executioner.”
“We appreciate the NAACP’s interest and concern of the recent officer involved shootings involving multiple agencies in the region in response to increased gang violence,” Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said in a statement. “We will continue to use every available resource to provide transparency, truthfulness and quality investigations for the Wilmington Police Department and the citizens of Wilmington.
“We welcome the opportunity to speak with the NAACP and those interested in the wellbeing of our community. We further solicit their support and input on reducing the black-on-black crime in our community that has led to the incarceration and victimization of a growing number of citizens in the City of Wilmington.”
New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon also said in a statement, “I have always requested that the SBI investigate any officer-involved shooting. Chief Evangelous and I are committed to share resources and work together to provide a safer community.”
The NAACP wants the public release of police reports regarding these incidents. They also want an independent citizens’ police review board, as well as a meeting with the DA, mayor and police chief to talk about some of the organization’s concerns.