“Safety Is Our Highest Priority”: Police Chiefs React To Fatal Attack

On Friday afternoon, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue and UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to public safety in the wake of the death of UNC professor Feng Liu.

Liu was attacked and robbed in broad daylight on Wednesday afternoon, reportedly while taking a walk near campus. He died of his wounds at UNC Hospitals the following morning. Two men have been arrested and charged with murder.

Chief Blue and Chief McCracken’s statement follows.

Dear Chapel Hill Community:
Our hearts go out to Professor Liu, his family, loved ones and colleagues during this very difficult time and in the wake of an unspeakable and senseless tragedy.

Safety is our highest community priority.

During this difficult time, we are reminded of the importance of the partnerships that have been formed between the University and the Town. None are stronger than the partnership between the Chapel Hill Police Department and the University’s Department of Public Safety.

Both of our departments embrace community-based policing and support our community safety partnerships with students, faculty, staff, business leaders, residents and community organizations.

We understand our residents will be concerned any time a crime like this occurs in our community. Our departments will continue to listen to you, share information and vigilantly work together to determine how we can keep our community safe.
Chris Blue, Chief, Chapel Hill Police Department
Jeff B. McCracken, Chief and Director, UNC Department of Public Safety


CHPD Chief: ‘Robbery/Murder A Random Act’

Chapel Hill citizens are expressing through social media their concern for safety after a random act of attempted robbery led to the death of a UNC professor Wednesday afternoon.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue says he wants to assure all citizens that the police officers are constantly monitoring the community for suspicious activity to help keep the town as safe as possible.

“We’re proud of the nature of our community’s safety,” Chief Blue says. “It’s something that we all work very hard on as community members. In fact, we all have a responsibility for it, and I’m proud of the way our community rises to that challenge. I will say that this one is particularly troubling because it’s so random—in the middle of the day. All of our sense of safety as community members takes a hit when something so random and unexplained happens, as was the case here. Immediately our reaction as a police department is to increase presence in the neighborhoods and knock on doors and reassure folks. But, we also recognize that grieving and dealing with this kind of shocking circumstance takes some time. We’re scratching our heads a little bit just like everyone else in the community is about just why and how this could happen.”

WCHL’s Ran Northam spoke with Chief Blue

The incident took place just a couple blocks west of the UNC School of Public Health and split of Pittsboro and South Columbia streets. Fifty-nine-year-old Feng Liu, of Greyfield Boulevard in Durham and a professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy was known to take a walk through the community during his lunch break, according to multiple media outlets. Colleagues said it was a way he reenergized himself daily.

Chief Blue says he can’t release any additional information because the investigation is ongoing, however, he says it was a town employee that first arrived to find Liu in need of medical attention. According to the News and Observer, prosecutors said Liu was hit in the head with a rock. He died at UNC Hospitals.

Public Information Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says the list of items stolen from Liu has not yet been released.

UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken was out of town Friday and unable to be reached.

In a statement released through Alert Carolina, Chief McCracken emphasized how important it is to always be prepared.

“People should have a plan in mind about how to respond in an emergency because it’s very difficult to plan for an emergency when you’re in the middle of one,” he said. “It’s important for people to know beforehand where the exits are, where the fire escapes are, the safest place in the building to be if a tornado is spotted, that kind of thing. Planning decreases panic and increases the chance for a better outcome in an emergency situation.”


Second Burglary This Month Reported At Granville Towers

The UNC Department of Public Safety needs your help in the investigation of a burglary at Granville Towers Tuesday.

Alert Carolina posted an informational message about the reported burglary in a room in Granville Towers West. The resident of the room told UNC DPS Wednesday that she noticed $450 in cash was taken from her wallet. Currently there is no suspect information available.

This is the second reported burglary in Granville Towers this month. On July 4, another female resident of Granville Towers East said she woke up to find her door open, her purse and wallet spread out on the floor, and her money missing.

Police released a photo of a man wanted in connection with that incident.

If you have any information regarding either incident, UNC DPS asks you to call 911 or CrimeStoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to CrimeStoppers are confidential and anonymous, and the caller may be eligible for a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. You can also leave tips for CrimeStoppers at www.crimestoppers-chcunc.org.


NCSU Trustee Arrested For Gun Possession On U.S. Capitol

A North Carolina State University trustee was arrested for gun possession on U.S. Capitol grounds Wednesday, according to multiple media outlets.

NCSU alumnus Ronald William Prestage, 59, of Camden, S.C. was arrested just after 9:00 a.m. Wednesday at the Cannon House Office Building entrance. A capitol police officer was searching Presage’s bad when he found a loaded 9mm handgun.

Prestage has served on the Board of Trustees since May 2013. He is the president of Prestage Farms in South Carolina and president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council.

He is due in court Thursday morning.


Sheriff Candidates Weigh In On Reported Sign Thefts

Though supporters have complained about missing campaign signs, the two men running to be Orange County’s next sheriff say its par for the course in election season.

Tuesday’s runoff between David Caldwell and Charles Blackwood will likely mark the end of the most hotly contested sheriff’s race Orange County has seen in three decades.

In the lead up to the second primary, supporters of David Caldwell say they’ve seen campaign signs disappear, but Caldwell himself is downplaying the issue.

“I’ve received several calls from people saying that signs that they’ve put up were missing and they asked if I would want to put any more out or purchase any more,” says Caldwell. “I just advised that was something we didn’t have control over and I could spend their donations to my campaign a lot better on things that I could control, newspaper ads and talking on the radio and things like that.”

Challenger Charles Blackwood says the matter has been blown out of proportion.

“It ain’t our first rodeo. We know signs are going to go out, we know signs are going to be taken,” says Blackwood. “People pay way too much attention to signs. I had a very smart politician tell me early on signs do two things: they make you feel good about seeing your name and they give your helpers something to do. Other than that, they’re a pain.”

Blackwood also notes he’s spent more money on signs than his opponent.

“We do have a tremendous number of signs out. We bought more than they did.”

And he says he’s seen some of the same tactics being used against him.

“I’m confident that David knows that I’m not stealing signs, nor am I telling anyone to steal signs, and I’m confident he’s not stealing my signs,” says Blackwood. “That being said, we’ve lost signs on Orange Grove Road, we’ve lost signs in and around Mount Willing Road, we’ve lost signs in Carrboro around the Weaver Street Market area, we lost one sign at 70A and Churton Street 37 times.”

Matt Hughes is the chair of the Orange County Democratic Party. He says while he’s seen this type of behavior on a regular basis, it is usually the work of rogue individuals, not a concerted effort by a campaign.

“I think people get heated in their support of various candidates and sometimes go and do things that are questionable, like stealing campaign signs, which is, the last time I checked, a possibly criminal offense,” says Hughes.

He notes that sometimes, the destruction of signs is more accidental than malicious.

“Road crews, if they’re doing maintenance in public right-of-ways, sometimes do take those signs,” says Hughes. “Sometimes they get chewed up in mulchers, sometimes they are removed. That also creates the perception that signs are being taken.”

Though the winner of Tuesday’s runoff will appear on the ballot in November, there are no Republican challengers, meaning who ever wins the second primary will be Orange County’s next sheriff.

Early voting wraps up Saturday at the Board of Elections office in Hillsborough. Polls will be open at all 44 precincts from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

You can listen to an hour-long forum featuring both candidates here.


Burglary at Granville Towers

A report of a burglary at Granville Towers East this morning is under investigation by the UNC Police.

After a female resident fell asleep around 2 a.m. this morning, someone had reportedly broken into her room. When the resident woke up around 7 a.m. this morning, she found that her door was standing open, with her pocket book and wallet out in the hallway floor and all of her money missing.

Surveillance cameras spotted a black male in his late 20’s to early 30’s, medium build, and some facial hair entering the building a little before 7 a.m

This investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information that would help the UNC Police investigation or anyone seeing suspicious activity should call 911 immediately or contact the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crime Stoppers at (919) 942-7515.

WCHL will provide updates as they are released.


Recent Shootings Prove No More Than Last Year

While it may seem as though shootings in Chapel Hill this year have been more frequent, Chapel Hill Police Public Information Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says that these numbers are no worse than last year.

“I don’t know that there have been any great changes in how we are patrolling,” says Lt. Mecimore, “but I would suspect that they are probably along those same lines: three or four in a half-year period.

However, Lt. Mecimore says that the severity of the shootings has been greater. Aside from the homicide that took place on Christopher Road on May 30, Lt. Mecimore recalls the other three shootings that have taken place this year.

“There was one on West Rosemary Street in the 300 block, one on East Franklin Street in the 100 block, which was this past week, and then a robbery on Cotton Street, where a gun was fired,” says Lt. Mecimore. “I think only in one of the other ones this year was someone was actually hit, but in the other two, a gun was discharged either during an argument, or in the one case, during a robbery.”

So far this calendar year, there have been four shootings. At this timeast year, there were also four.


Second Suspect Arrested In May 30 Shooting

A second suspect in the fatal shooting in south-west Chapel Hill on May 30 was arrested Wednesday.

The Chapel Hill Police Department reports that Brandon Shamar Townsend, 21, of Varina Drive in Durham was apprehended in Durham by the US Marshall’s Joint Fugitive Task Force. He has been charged with First Degree Murder and Attempted First Degree Murder.

Townsend is being held without bond at the Orange County Jail.

The incident was initially reported as a break-in at 102 S. Christopher Road. It resulted in the death of Lew Hahn Hood, 33, of Chapel Hill, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Police say Hood had multiple gunshot wounds.

Bartholomew Romidas Scott, 35, of Durham was arrested and charged with first degree murder soon after the incident when he was taken to police headquarters for questioning.

Chapel Hill Police Public Information Lieutenant Josh Mecimore told WCHL that neither Hood nor Scott were residents of the home where the shooting took place.

South Christopher Road runs parallel to 15-501, Fordham Boulevard, and the home is next to the onramp from NC-54.

Click here for more on this story.


Carrboro Police Request Body Cameras, and Car Cams

During the Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting this past Tuesday, Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton and Captain Chris Atack proposed the idea of both body-worn cameras as well as in-car cameras for Carrboro police.

Chief Horton discussed the benefits that would come from the ability to review the footage collected and provide more reliable information about various criminal situations where eyewitness testimonies can be unreliable.

“These cameras would allow us, when we do receive complaints, to go back and answer that; review what happened, whether good or bad,” informs Chief Horton.

The Policy Director from the ACLU of North Carolina, Sarah Preston, also spoke in support of the police cameras. She reassured the Board on the efforts Carrboro police would make in order to provide accurate information about what they encounter while on patrol, while also encouraging a strong policy to keep it in check.

“The ACLU believes that the police use of body-mounted cameras has the potential to be a win/win,” says Preston, “but really only if you have a solid policy in place.”

The Board will review the proposal made by the Carrboro police and will make a decision about the cameras in the upcoming weeks.


Durham Man Sentenced in 2011 Chapel Hill Slaying

A Durham man who recently pleaded guilty to a 2011 murder in Chapel Hill has been sentenced to between 30 and 37 years in prison.

Twenty-nine-year-old Mario Dante Ramsey entered the plea in Orange County Superior Court on May 16.

He was charged with second-degree murder and armed robbery in the fatal shooting of 41-year-old Drew Chrisropher Frasure, at the victim’s Ashley Forest Drive apartment on December 11, 2011.

Investigators determined that Ramsey was carrying a .40-caliber handgun when he went to Frasure’s apartment to sell him drugs, just after midnight.

Chapel Hill News reports that, according to prosecutors, Ramsey’s true intention was to demand $50 he felt he was owed from a previous transaction.

A struggle ensued between the men, and ended with Frasure getting shot in the throat.

Ramsey fled the scene with two other men and a woman who had waited outside in a vehicle. Those three witnesses cooperated with investigators, and none of them were charged.