Chapel Hill Police Seek 2 In September Hit And Run

Chapel Hill police now say a man was struck by two cars during a September 29 hit and run incident.

23 year-old Joseph Russo was hit shortly after 3: 30 a.m. on Fordham Boulveard at East Lake Drive. He was taken to Duke Hospital with serious injuries.

Based on evidence collected at the scene, officials say one of the vehicles was a full-size pickup. The other was Subaru Legacy sedan, manufactured between 1995-1999. The sedan likely shows significant damage to the front passenger side.

Russo has been released from the hospital, though doctors say he faces a long road to recovery.

Anyone with information about the accident is asked to contact the Chapel Hill Police Department at (919) 968-2760 or CrimeStoppers at (919) 942-7515.

Thieves Target Chapel Hill Public Library

The Chapel Hill Public Library was the target for thieves on Thursday.

Chapel Hill Police Sergeant Bryan Walker says the manner in which the crime was committed is unusual.

“Apparently someone overnight had actually removed glass from one of the doors,” says Walker. “The glass and frame had been removed and was not broken.”

Once the glass was removed someone stole an Apple computer estimated to be worth $2,000 from the library’s teen center.

The crime was discovered by employees when the library opened on Thursday morning. Chapel Hill Police are still investigating the incident.

It’s Halloween!

Friday is Halloween, and that means one of the biggest parties of the year in downtown Chapel Hill.

About 30,000 people are expected on Franklin Street for the annual Halloween celebration. Franklin Street will be closed downtown from 9:00 p.m. until midnight as costumed revelers take to the streets.

As per usual, the Town of Chapel Hill is trying to keep the party manageable: traffic into town will be restricted, parking downtown will be extremely limited, and Chapel Hill Transit routes will end early. About 400 police officers will be on hand as well, from a variety of municipalities in the area.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt about tonight’s festivities.


And Aaron also spoke with Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue about how the department is getting ready – and what you need to know.


For more information on Halloween, including attendance reports from previous years, visit

Map of roads that will be closed for Halloween.

Map of roads that will be closed for Halloween.

From the Town of Chapel Hill:

Street Closures

Southbound traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd will be merged into one lane between Estes Drive and Rosemary Street.
Traffic on E. Franklin Street will be merged into one lane between Estes Drive and Raleigh Road.
Westbound traffic on E. Franklin Street will be merged into one lane prior to the intersection of Estes Drive.
Westbound lanes on South Road will be detoured onto Ridge Road to Manning Drive.
Westbound traffic on Manning Drive will be detoured south onto S. Columbia Street. Northbound traffic on S. Columbia Street will be detoured east onto Manning Drive. S. Columbia Street will be closed to northbound traffic at Manning Drive.
Beginning at about 9 p.m., some downtown streets will be closed to vehicular traffic, including:

Franklin Street, from Raleigh Street to Mallette Street
Columbia Street, from Rosemary Street to Cameron Avenue
Raleigh Street, from East Franklin to Cameron Avenue
Henderson Street, from East Rosemary Street to East Franklin Street
Residential streets near downtown will be closed except to residents of those streets and their guests. View a map of street closures.


There will be LIMITED PARKING available in Town lots close to downtown; there will be no place for charter buses to drop off or pick up passengers.

Vehicles parked on streets to be closed will be towed beginning at 6 p.m.

Vehicles that are illegally parked will be ticketed and towed, with a minimum recovery cost of $105 plus the cost of the ticket.

Media vehicles will not be allowed to park inside the closed perimeter.

For the latest UNC public safety information on Halloween (street closures and parking restrictions) visit

Prohibited Items

Town ordinances and State statutes prohibit the following items in the closed area:

Alcoholic Beverages
Glass Bottles
Fireworks and Explosives
Flammable Substances
Items, even as part of a costume, which can be used as weapons or could reasonably be mistaken as weapons will be confiscated. This includes items made of wood, metal, cardboard or hard plastic.


Chapel Hill Transit (CHT) will end service early on the D, F, J, NS and NU routes and EZ Rider to accommodate the Halloween celebration on Franklin Street. The following schedule modifications will be in effect:

D Route will end at 8:43 p.m. at the Sagebrook Apartments
F Route will end at 8:45 p.m. at Colony Woods
J Route will end at 8:56 p.m. at the Rock Creek Apartments
NS Route will end at 8:38 p.m. at Eubanks Park and Ride
NU Route will end at 8:29 p.m. at RR Lot
EZ Rider service will end at 8:30 p.m.

All other routes will operate on regular routes and published schedules, although minor delays may occur due to increased traffic.

Safe Ride Buses: Safe Ride buses will operate from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. View schedules and maps of safe ride routes at Safe Ride is a service funded by the UNC-Chapel Hill Student Government for the safety of students. Safe Ride buses will operate along detoured routes. Safe Rides will not serve the Downtown/Franklin Street area. Please be advised that due to road closures and traffic pattern changes, Chapel Hill Transit may be unable to operate its exact published schedules.

• Safe T – pick up and drop off from Chapel Hill Town Hall
• Safe J – pick up and drop off from Passport Motors (Franklin Street at Graham Street)
• Safe G – pick up and drop off from Columbia Street at Sitterson Hall across from Carolina Inn

No Bus Shuttles: There will be no bus shuttles operating from park and ride lots.

Questions: Please contact a CHT customer service representative at 919-969-4900 (press 1) or email

Downtown Residents

The Town of Chapel Hill will make every effort to keep people who are attending the event from parking in your neighborhood. Access to your neighborhood will be limited by barricades and police personnel at the roads leading into your neighborhood. This will begin early in the evening.

Residents of the neighborhood will be able to drive in and out of the enclosed area. Tell the officer at the barricade where you live.
Your guests will also be able to enter and leave. They will need to tell the officer at the barricade exactly where they are going.
Illegally parked vehicles (even of residents, guests) will be ticketed and towed.
Traffic will be congested and getting past the barricades may be a slow process. We recommend that you plan accordingly.
Yard waste collection will be conducted as usual on Thursday, Oct. 31. Friday yard waste collections will be postponed to Friday, Nov. 8.

Chapel Hill PD Releases SWAT Report

In response to public interest in police tactics, following recent events in Ferguson, MO, the Chapel Hill Police Department has released a list of SWAT operations dating back to 2002.

WCHL requested the list to include racial identities of suspects arrested in SWAT operations.

But Chief Chris Blue, who provided the list to WCHL, wrote in an email that he did not “have a report that captures all the demographics of arrestees in all these cases.”

The reports shows that Chapel Hill Police carried out 83 SWAT operations between Jan. 14, 2002 and July 26, 2012.

One well-publicized incident occurred on Nov. 13, 2011, when a SWAT team removed protesters from the Yates Motor Co. building on Franklin Street.

Search warrants accounted for 67, or 80.7 percent of SWAT operations between 2002 and the summer of 2012.

Sixty-one of those warrants, or 91 percent, turned up drugs. Twenty, or 29.9 percent of search warrants, led police to weapons.

Seven out of 67 search warrants yielded neither weapons nor drugs.

Only one operation is listed as a “no-knock” raid. That occurred on Aug. 30, 2011, for an unspecified search warrant at 177 Ashley Forest Rd., Unit A.

Drugs and weapons were seized, and no one was injured.

There were no gun-related injuries listed throughout the report, and few injuries in general. In one instance, two officers were bitten by a pit bull.

In three buy/bust operations, suspects had drugs all three times, and weapons in two instances. Other operations included four-high-risk arrests; one hostage situation; clearing people from a building; and assisting in the protection of Vice President Joe Biden when he visited Chapel Hill in July 2010.

On Oct. 8, 2002, a SWAT team removed demonstrators from Rep. David Price’s office on Fordham Boulevard. The sit-in was staged by protesters concerned about Price’s position on the then-forthcoming Iraq War resolution.

Three people were arrested. A week later, Price voted against the resolution.

CHPD: No Charges Filed In Cyclist Death

Chapel Hill Police say the investigation into a cyclist’s recent death has come to a close and no charges will be filed against the driver in the incident.

On the morning of October 3, cyclist Pamela Lane was hit by a car near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hillsborough Street. She was transported to UNC Hospitals where she later died.

Police say she was was traveling southbound on the eastern sidewalk of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and the car was exiting the parking lot of the Mobil station at the Hillsborough St. intersection at the time of the collision.

Lane was reportedly traveling against the flow of traffic when she was hit.

CHPD Chief: We’re Not Armed by Defense Dept.

Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police assured citizens at a Saturday forum that his department was not weaponized by the Department of Defense.

“I am not a gun lover,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue told a group of citizens at Chapel Hill Public Library on Saturday afternoon. “I carry one for a living. I also respect your right to carry as many as you want, as long as that’s legal to do that.

“But I will say this: I send men and women out into the street to encounter people who may have 50 of those 300 million guns in the back seat of their car.”

On August 9, unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot to death in Ferguson Missouri by Police Officer Darren Wilson. The media images of police on the street in riot gear that followed sparked conversations all over the U.S. about the seeming militarization of law enforcement.

That concern was amplified after the New York Times published data about the federal 1033 program.

“This is the program the Department of Defense runs, to give local law enforcement folks surplus military equipment,” he said. “Some of what you have seen on the news – huge armored personnel carriers, mine-resistant personnel carriers, tracked vehicles, you know, like tank-kind of tracks – the Department of Defense will give you that kind of stuff. We don’t have any of that.”

What the CHPD has, he added, is a 1985 Dodge armored vehicle that has never been used. It was parked outside the library on Saturday, for all to see, after the one-hour-and-22-minute forum was concluded.

According to Blue, the 1033 program also supplied his department boots, raincoats, and filing cabinets. But the department buys its own guns, he added.

The police chief made the point that U.S. citizens own about 300 million guns just like the ones brandished by police back in 2011, during the infamous Yates Motor Company incident.

On Nov. 13 of that year, a Chapel Hill SWAT team, armed with assault rifles and dressed in riot gear, forced Occupy protesters out of the Yates building off Franklin Street.

That incident was a public relations headache for the police department of a town with a progressive reputation; and where most of the reported offenses are property crimes.

“What we’ve done since Yates is that we’ve written a policy for our SWAT team,” said Blue. “We’ve had a SWAT team since 1977. We got a policy written for them in 2012 – should’ve had one before.”

Prior to that, he added, the SWAT team just had a list of procedures to follow.

Blue took questions toward the end of the forum. One person asked if there were enough African-American uniformed officers on patrol in Chapel Hill.

The chief quickly responded there were not, adding that the department had “not done a very good job” in that area of recruitment. He also pointed out that the applicant pool has been declining in general, over recent years.

There are 176 members of the Chapel Hill Police Department. One hundred thirty-one, or 74.4 percent, are white.

Forty black employees make up 22.7 percent of the force. There are four Hispanics, and one listed as “other.”

Town Council Member Maria Palmer was in attendance, and she expressed concern about the mere handful of police officers that actually live in Chapel Hill. Palmer suggested subsidized housing for police officers and other public employees.

Blue was asked for demographic information about people stopped for searches, questioning and arrests. He directed citizens to the North Carolina Department of Justice website, where those records are available. He said the police department is working to make that information more easily accessible.

The chief also described the process of registering complaints about an officer’s conduct. He said that all complaints end up on his desk, and that they are taken seriously.

Blue added there is also a citizens advisory board, although he admitted it had not been granted legal authority to review departmental actions by looking at personnel files.

As a last resort, Blue said, dissatisfied citizens can always go to the Town Council.

Most of the citizens in attendance at Saturday’s forum were members of the Chapel Hill/ Carrboro NAACP, including its president. Minister Robert Campbell.

Blue accepted an invitation to make a presentation at the NAACP’s meeting on the first Saturday in November.

A similar public forum with Chief Walter Horton of the Carrboro Police Department and other town officials is scheduled for tonight at 7, in the Town Hall Board Room.

Carrboro Town Hall is located at 301 W. Main St.

Police Investigate Cyclist Death After MLK Collision

Chapel Hill Police say a cyclist died Friday morning after being hit by a car on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Hillsborough Street.

The collision occurred just after 9:30. The cyclist was transported to UNC Emergency Department and later died from injuries related to the collision. No charges have been filed at this time. Police say the investigation is on-going.

New Tests Show No Groundwater Contamination Near CHPD Coal Ash Dump

Town officials say retesting of groundwater near a coal ash dump under the Chapel Hill Police Department shows no contamination has entered Bolin Creek.

The coal ash pit lurking beneath the Chapel Hill Police Department headquarters was discovered last year when town officials had the land on Martin Luther King Boulevard appraised for possible sale.

Testing last fall revealed higher than normal levels of levels of arsenic, barium, chromium and lead in groundwater samples from one of two testing wells, but officials with the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources requested retesting because the turbidity levels in the samples could lead to inaccurate results.

Last month, environmental engineers from Falcon Engineering re-sampled groundwater from two wells on the property using a low-flow filter to minimize turbidity.

A newly-released report from Falcon found metal concentrations in all samples to be below state standards for contamination, indicating that groundwater on the site has not been compromised by the coal ash.

A site assessment states there’s also no evidence that contamination leached into Bolin Creek, as some environmental activists had feared.

The town is waiting to hear from NC DENR about what next steps to take next. The state agency could require clean up of the site or place limitations on its future use.

Chapel Hill Police Charge Two With Arson

Chapel Hill Police arrested a pair of Carrboro residents wanted on arson charges stemming from a June incident.

Shawn Edward Hoffman and Kathleen Christine Moran of Old Fayetteville Road were taken into custody on Wednesday.

Each faces felony charges of first degree arson and conspiracy to commit a felony. The pair allegedly set fire to a shed on Crest Drive in Chapel Hill earlier this summer.

Chapel Hill Police Sergeant Bryan Walker said lawn care equipment stored in the shed was found to be missing after fire fighters extinguished the flames.

“They should have been able to find remnants in the shed, even though it was burned,” says Walker. “They did not, so they determined that property was stolen.”

Hoffman is being held on $15,000 bond; Moran’s bond is set at $20,000. Both are being held in the Orange County Jail.

Shawn Edward Hoffman

Shawn Edward Hoffman

Kathleen Christine Moran

Kathleen Christine Moran

Chapel Hill Police Checkpoint Sparks Chase

Chapel Hill police arrested a man who they say fled from a police checkpoint early Sunday morning.

According to police reports, Victor Emanuel Patrick Lopez of Carrboro made a quick u-turn to avoid a DWI checkpoint at Timber Hollow Drive shortly before 2 a.m.

Police pursued the car with lights and sirens, but the suspect reportedly did not stop until blocked in by patrol cars on Piney Mountain Road.

Sergeant Bryan Walker says Lopez was wanted on felony charges in Chatham County.

“When they did get the vehicle stopped, they seized a handgun from the vehicle, charged the person with carrying a concealed weapon and also discovered that he had a warrant out of Chatham County for failure to appear.”

STORY: Driver Apprehended Going 76 MPH On MLK, Jr. Blvd. Saturday

Lopez is being held in the Orange County Jail on a $100,000 secured bond.

26 officers from half a dozen agencies participated in Sunday’s checkpoint. Officers made five DWI arrests and issued 38 citations.