Public Forum Monday Will Address Race And Policing

Monday night, you are invited to a town hall-style discussion about racial disparities in policing, 7-9 pm in Chapel Hill Town Hall.

On hand will be Chapel Hill police chief Chris Blue, Carrboro police chief Walter Horton, and Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood, as well as elected officials and other community leaders. Joel Brown of WTVD will moderate.

This has been one of the most talked-about issues of the year, both nationwide and locally. Just this month, Chapel Hill announced a series of new measures to address the issue – including wider usage of body cameras, periodic reviews of traffic stop data, racial equity training for officers, and consent forms for vehicle searches.

Monday’s forum is co-sponsored by Chapel Hill’s Justice in Action Committee and the District 15B Racial Justice Task Force; it’s one of many that have been devoted to the topic in the last two years.

If you can’t make it to the meeting in person, you will be able to stream it online: click this link for the streaming page.

The full list of announced panelists is below:

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue
Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton
Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood
Carrboro Alderman Michelle Johnson
Chapel Hill Attorney Tye Hunter
Community member Terrence Foushee
Director of Empowerment Inc. Delores Bailey
Executive Director of the Scholars Latino Initiative Ricky Hurtado
UNC Law Student Quisha Mallette

Arrest Made in Orange County Church Vandalism Case

An arrest has been made in connection with vandalism at two Orange County churches last week.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office investigators have charged Brayden Tyler Swain with “numerous felonies stemming from the vandalism of the Little River Presbyterian Church and the New Bethel United Methodist Church” last Thursday.

Swain, of Person County, has been charged with offenses including breaking or entering a place of worship, injury to real property, injury to personal property and safe cracking.

Law enforcement originally said the damage to the two churches was estimated to be $20,000. Officials said nothing appeared to have been stolen. Instead, officials say “it appears that the suspect(s) only intent was to damage and destroy property at the churches.”

Swain is being held at the Orange County Detention Facility under a $5,000 bond. Swain is set to make his first appearance in District Court on Tuesday afternoon.

While Swain is in custody, authorities are asking for anyone with additional information to contact investigator Jason Nazworth at (919) 245-2925 or investigator Keith Goodwin at (919) 245-2918. Tips can also be e-mailed to

Orange County Authorities Asking for Information Regarding Vandalism of Two Churches

Officials with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office say two separate church vandalisms occurred between Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.

Authorities say the Little River Presbyterian Church and the New Bethel United Methodist Church, both located in Caldwell, were broken into and “numerous panes of glass” were broken. The doors at each location also sustained damage as part of the incident.

Nothing appears to have been stolen, according to law enforcement, instead officials say “it appears that the suspect(s) only intent was to damage and destroy property at the churches.”

The cost to replace and repair the damage is expected to exceed $20,000, although an exact figure has not been calculated.

The Sheriff’s Office is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those involved. Authorities say anyone with information can remain anonymous, if they prefer.

Officials are requesting information regarding the vandalism be directed to investigator Jason Nazworth at (919) 245-2925 or investigator Keith Goodwin at (919) 245-2918. Tips can also be e-mailed to

Chandler Kania Trial Continuing in Fatal Wrong-Way Crash

Chandler Kania stood before a judge in a Hillsborough courtroom on Monday and entered several guilty pleas, but that was not the end of the road in this case.

Kania, the former UNC student, admitted to driving the wrong-way on I-85 near the I-40 split last summer for approximately six miles before crashing head-on into another vehicle. The crash killed three of the four passengers in the vehicle struck by Kania’s Jeep Wrangler – 49-year-old Felicia Harris, 46-year-old Darlene McGee and six-year-old Jahnice Baird. Nine-year-old Jahnia King was the fourth passenger and was injured in the crash.

After approximately two hours of discussions between attorneys for the state and defense, Kania entered guilty pleas on Monday for three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, one count of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired and other misdemeanor charges related to the July 2015 crash.

But that guilty plea was not part of any agreement to bring the case to a conclusion. Kania entered a not guilty plea to three counts of second-degree murder and one count of reckless driving.

The maximum sentence for the charges Kania pled guilty to on Monday is 714 months – or nearly 60 years. But Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said that Kania would be facing a window of approximately 21 – 25 years for the offenses based on his criminal record.

The main difference between the felony death by motor vehicle charge and second-degree murder is that the latter charge requires the prosecution to prove that Kania acted with malice the night of the crash.

Court documents show that Kania, who was 20 years old at the time of the crash, spent several hours drinking with friends the night of the crash, including trips to two Chapel Hill bars where he used a fake ID. Kania also fought off friends who tried to keep him from driving the night of the crash, according to records.

Kania’s blood-alcohol content the night of the crash was .17, records show, which is twice the legal limit to drive in North Carolina. But Kania was also underage at the time of the crash.

Kania’s defense team also objected to some pictures the state is submitting to use in the trial. The judge ruled out three of the 52 pictures submitted because he felt they were redundant. The judge also denied a defense motion asking for jurors to be selected on an individual basis, rather than traditional block consideration.

Potential jurors will, however, be made aware Kania entered a guilty plea on some charges on Monday.

That jury selection process is set to begin on Tuesday.

Trial Set for UNC Football Player Accused of Sexual Assault

“I did not rape her.”

Allen Artis repeated that claim five times as his eyes panned across a group of reporters outside the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough on Thursday.

Earlier this month, a UNC sophomore Delaney Robinson accused Artis of raping her on Valentine’s Day.

Robinson said she filed a complaint after the incident but that she was discouraged during the process that justice in her eyes would be served.

Robinson’s attorney, Denise Branch, said when the allegations were made public that she had been told no charges would be brought in the case. But local District Attorney Jim Woodall said that same day that he had confirmed with UNC Police that the investigation was open and ongoing.

Rather than waiting for the resolution of that investigation, which could result in felony charges, Robinson took out self-sworn warrants for assault and sexual battery.

Durham-based attorney Kerry Sutton is representing Artis and said he was “perfectly happy” to let the full investigative process play out.

“He has every right to have a fair trial, both here and in the Title IX process,” Sutton said. “And although we didn’t start this – and I’m not blaming this on Ms. Robinson at all – the way this has turned out, Mr. Artis can not possibly get a fair hearing in the Title IX process.”

Sutton’s law partner Steve Lindsay said that they were preparing for a trial to restore Artis’ reputation and would not accept any plea agreement before trial.

“I’ll make that clear right now, we are not going to plead guilty to anything,” Lindsay said. “This man has done nothing wrong.”

Stephanie Artis, Allen’s mother, asked for the public to reserve judgment.

“As his mom and as his parents, our heart breaks for him because we know him,” she said. “And our community at home and everybody who knows him knows his heart and knows that this wouldn’t happen. So we’re dealing with the personal part.

“Also, as a mother, it saddens me that this could be any of our sons.”

Sutton said the case defending Artis was going to rely on what they see as the facts from the night of the incident.

“We’re using the facts,” Sutton said. “The facts will support Allen. We’re not afraid of the facts.”

Sutton said that she had reviewed the witness statements given in the case and that Robinson’s friends told authorities that she had “seemed fine.” Robinson has admitted to drinking the night of the alleged assault and the warrants state that Artis should have known Robinson was incapacitated that February night.

“I just want the truth to come out and then justice to come out,” Artis said after Thursday’s hearing.

“Delaney Robinson is a rape victim, and she has chosen to exercise her rights as a victim to be involved in these legal proceedings,” Branch said in a statement released after Thursday’s hearing. “We are pleased with the actions Mr. Woodall and his office have taken since Ms. Robinson had the courage to come forward. Ms. Robinson remains resolute in her pursuit of justice.”

The trial date on the two misdemeanor charges has been set for December 5.

Artis has been suspended indefinitely from the UNC football team, which is team policy for any player charged with misdemeanor offenses.

Five Arrested After $3 Million Worth of Cocaine Seized from Chapel Hill Home

“Well over” $3 million worth of cocaine was seized from a Chapel Hill residence as part of a multi-agency drug investigation.

Authorities say they suspected a high-level cocaine trafficking operation was located at 131 Morton Road in Chapel Hill and launch an investigation. That led to a search of the residence where Chatham County deputies located and seized 38 kilograms of suspected cocaine hydrochloride, which authorities estimated had a street value of more than $3 million.

Officials say law enforcement also seized approximately $530,000, which was described as being “packaged, sealed and prepped for transport out of the country.”

Authorities say five firearms were also seized along with multiple rounds of various caliber ammunition, a commercial-grade currency counter, digital scales and several “luxury vehicles.”

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office along with federal, state and other local agencies were all part of the investigation, according to a release.

“Teamwork is the key to solving these complicated and extensive cases,” Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson said in a release. “It takes a collective partnership with other local, state, and federal agencies and the community to identify and effectively respond to criminal activity. Don’t let cases like these stay hidden in the shadows; call 911 to share information if you suspect criminal activity in your neighborhood.”

Five suspects – 39-year-old Jose Manuel Elzaldo-Serrano, 41-year-old Carlos Ocegyeda-Serrano, 40-year-old Venusian Serrano-Mejia, 45-year-old Fernado Rivera-Hernandez and 30-year-old Christian Manor Gomez-Santos – have all been charged with trafficking a schedule II controlled substance, conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine and maintaining a dwelling to sell or distribute cocaine.

Jose Manuel Elzaldo-Serrano. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Jose Manuel Elzaldo-Serrano. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Carlos Ocegyeda-Serrano. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Carlos Ocegyeda-Serrano. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Venusian Serrano-Mejia. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Venusian Serrano-Mejia. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Fernado Rivera-Hernandez. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Fernado Rivera-Hernandez. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Christian Manor Gomez-Santos. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Christian Manor Gomez-Santos. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

All five suspects were given a $1 million bond and made a first court appearance on Monday.

Registered Sex Offender Arrested in Orange County Murder-For-Hire Plot

Local authorities have arrested a man in connection with a murder-for-hire plot.

Authorities say Brian Travis Padnos Allen of Mebane was arrested by members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office after law enforcement received information that Allen was attempting to contract a murder.

A release from the Sheriff’s Office says the intended target was the significant other of a former girlfriend.

Allen is a lifetime registered sex offender, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities say Allen was taken into custody without incident and is being held under a $500,000 secured bond.

Carrboro Police Again Successfully Use Naloxone to Reverse Overdose

Carrboro Police have once again utilized naloxone to reverse a drug overdose.

Officials say the patient in this case was transported to UNC Hospitals for treatment. Administering naloxone reverses the effects of overdose, which allows an opportunity for medical intervention to save the life of the user.

Carrboro Police have been on the forefront of the wave of law enforcement carrying the reversal drug. CPD partnered with Orange County EMS, the Orange County Health Department and the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition to go forward with the program.

Authorities say this marks the third time an officer has used naloxone since officers began carrying the drug in October 2014. The first instance was a successful overdose reversal in January 2015. Just a few weeks later, in late February 2015, the second use of naloxone was during the reversal of a triple overdose.

Law enforcement officials have been more open to carrying naloxone and thinking about overdose as a health problem rather than a law-enforcement issue, even though illegal drugs or illegal use of prescription drugs is the cause of some overdoses.

Police continue to ask that you call 911 if you suspect someone is in an overdose state and remain with the subject of concern.

Hillsborough Police Investigating Multiple Car Break-Ins

Hillsborough Police are warning residents to lock their vehicles after a string of targeted break-ins.

Police say several unlocked vehicles have been broken into in several areas of town.

Authorities are asking citizens to not leave their vehicles unlocked and to not leave valuable items in visible locations.

There were recently suspects charged with committing similar crimes in Mebane and Hillsborough Police are investigating whether there is any connection. The suspects arrested in the Mebane break-ins were from Chapel Hill, Durham and Graham, according to police.

Driver in Fatal I-85 Crash in Orange County Charged with DWI

A Graham man has been charged with six charges following a fatal three-vehicle collision on I-85 in Orange County Tuesday evening.

Officials with the North Carolina Highway Patrol have charged 40-year-old Robert Jason Mace, of Graham, with felony death by a motor vehicle, felony serious injury by a motor vehicle, driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, failure to maintain lane control and improper passing.

Authorities say a passenger van driven by Mace traveling south on I-85 near mile-marker 165 traveled off the right shoulder and struck the rear of a tractor-trailer, which was stationary at the time. The van then collided with a Toyota pickup truck, which caused the Toyota to overturn.

The female passenger in the van driven by Mace died at the scene, according to law enforcement.

Authorities say the investigation shows that Mace was driving in a careless and reckless manner prior to the collision and passing other vehicles on the right emergency shoulder of I-85.

Investigators say they believe alcohol was a factor.

Additional charges could be brought against Mace as the investigation continues.

Mace and the driver of the Toyota were taken to Duke for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

I-85 was shut down for several hours Tuesday while the preliminary investigation was conducted.