Char­lotte protests, ri­ots are the back­drop in the mur­der trial of Rayquan Bo­rum

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Insight - BY MICHAEL GOR­DON mgor­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

More than two years after vi­o­lent protests tore through up­town Char­lotte, this ques­tion lingers:

Who killed Justin Carr?

Next week, jury se­lec­tion be­gins in a first-de­gree mur­der trial that could pro­vide a de­fin­i­tive rul­ing or fur­ther fan the ex­ist­ing de­bate.

On Sept. 21,

2016, Carr was fa­tally shot while he stood in a crowd of demon­stra­tors con­fronting po­lice out­side the Omni ho­tel. The 21-year-old Char­lotte man, who ac­cord­ing to fam­ily mem­bers was at­tend­ing his first pub­lic protest, was among the hun­dreds of peo­ple drawn to up­town that night after the fa­tal po­lice shoot­ing the day be­fore of Keith La­mont Scott.

Just after 8:20 p.m., a pop sent the crowd into a pan­icked stam­pede from Trade and Col­lege streets. A smaller group of by­standers stayed be­hind and en­cir­cled Carr, who lay gravely wounded on the pave­ment. An au­topsy said he died in­stantly when a bullet en­tered his head by his left ear.

Po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors say a sur­veil­lance video — ob­tained by the Ob­server un­der a court or­der — cap­tures the mo­ment of Carr’s death. A small orange flash of light ap­pears in the midst of the crowd. As peo­ple flee, pros­e­cu­tors say the gun­man, in a white T-shirt and dark pants, side­steps through the de­part­ing crowd and then dashes off screen.

At 10 a.m. Mon­day, a few blocks from where Carr died, Rayquan Bo­rum of Char­lotte will go on trial, charged with the killing. The 24-year-old has re­mained jailed since his ar­rest two days after the shoot­ing.

If con­victed of first-de­gree mur­der, Bo­rum faces a manda­tory sen­tence of life in prison with­out pa­role. Any ver­dict must be unan­i­mous.

Dur­ing pre­lim­i­nary court ap­pear­ances, pros­e­cu­tors said Bo­rum has ad­mit­ted to the shoot­ing. His for­mer at­tor­ney, Terry Sher­rill of Char­lotte, said in court that Bo­rum car­ried a gun to the demon­stra­tions in up­town on Sept. 21, 2016. Sher­rill also said his client pulled the trig­ger that night but did not fire the shot that killed Carr.

One of Bo­rum’s cur­rent at­tor­neys, Dar­lene Har­ris, de­clined to com­ment this week about the case.

Bo­rum will be pros­e­cuted by as­sis­tant district at­tor­neys Des­mond McCal­lum and Glenn Cole. A spokes­woman for the DA of­fice said pros­e­cu­tors do not com­ment on a pend­ing case.

A group of ac­tivists who say they were stand­ing near Carr

when he was shot in­sist that he was killed, not by Bo­rum, but by a rub­ber bullet fired from the po­lice line guard­ing the Omni.

Char­lotte Up­ris­ing has said that Bo­rum, a con­victed felon, has been made a scape­goat to draw at­ten­tion away from CMPD bru­tal­ity.

For the last two years, group mem­bers have held demon­stra­tions out­side the Meck­len­burg court­house and in such sur­prise lo­ca­tions as South­park mall. Mem­bers in­ter­rupted court hear­ings and hung signs over over­passes pro­claim­ing Bo­rum’s in­no­cence and po­lice guilt.

“Rayquan Bo­rum goes to trial for the CMPD mur­der of Justin Carr,” ac­cord­ing to a post this week on the group’s Face­book page. “He knows he didn’t do it. We know he didn’t do it. If there was a need for court sup­port in Char­lotte, it’s NOW.”

Two of the group’s spokesper­sons, Ash Wil­liams and Jamie Mar­si­cano, told the Ob­server this week that Carr’s death was a con­tin­u­a­tion of the two days of vi­o­lence Char- lotte-Meck­len­burg po­lice un­leashed on demon­stra­tors.

“I would love to hold CMPD ac­count­able for what it has done,” Mar­si­cano said. “But with this trial, my pri­mary hope is for this man to get the free­dom that he should have had all along.”

CMPD has long de­nied fir­ing rub­ber bul­lets at the crowd that night. Ex­perts also told the Ob­server that the da­m­age to Carr’s skull and brain was too ex­treme to have been caused by any­thing other than a con­ven­tional bullet.

A jour­nal­ist on the scene that night, Ryan James of the Daily Beast, said the fa­tal shot came from the crowd, not po­lice.

“There was a loud pop, then panic and con­fu­sion ... Stand­ing about 10 yards away, I looked down the bar­rel of a pis­tol,” James wrote. “The shooter, a black male, was stand­ing at the in­ter­sec­tion of East Trade and South Col­lege streets with the weapon still aimed. He turned and ran.”

Char­lotte Up­ris­ing’s nar­ra­tive of Carr’s death fits into the back­drop of in­creas­ing crit­i­cism na­tion­wide of po­lice treat­ment of African-Amer­i­cans and other mi­nori­ties.

Re­tired long­time Su­pe­rior Court Judge Richard Boner says the Bo­rum trial, which some le­gal ob­servers say could last three weeks to a month, may prove to be a ref­er­en­dum on po­lice.

After more than a decade of hear­ing crim­i­nal cases around the state, Boner says he has watched Meck­len­burg ju­ries be­come far more will­ing to chal­lenge the cred­i­bil­ity of po­lice, district at­tor­neys and their ex­pert wit­nesses than in other coun­ties.

“It all de­pends on who you get on that jury,” Boner says. “I’m guar­an­tee­ing you that one of things (the at­tor­neys) will home in on dur­ing the ju­ror ques­tion­ing is, ‘Have you or any­one in your fam­ily ever had an is­sue with a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer?’”

Bo­rum’s case is the county’s high­est-pro­file homi­cide trial since 2015, when CMPD Of­fi­cer Ran­dall Ker­rick was charged with vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter in con­nec­tion with the shoot­ing death of Jonathan Fer­rell, an un­armed African-Amer­i­can mo­torist who had wrecked his car. The trial ended in a hung jury that. The charges against Ker­rick were later dropped.

Char­lotte at­tor­ney Michael Greene, part of Ker- rick’s for­mer de­fense team, says it will be “vi­tal” for at­tor­neys on both sides of the Bo­rum trial to weed out po­ten­tial ju­rors who “al­ready have made up their minds” about po­lice, race or any other fac­tors re­lated to the case.

He re­called that one prospec­tive Ker­rick ju­ror told him that she would be fair. But Greene said her Face­book page had a pho­to­graph of a po­lice of­fi­cer with the cap­tion, “Hang them all.”

“Are 12 im­par­tial ju­rors out there? It’s go­ing to be hard to find them,” Greene said. “Es­pe­cially once you tell folks that the case is in the news, in the pub­lic spot­light. But this is best sys­tem we have, and you have to trust it.”

The se­lec­tion for Bo­rum’s jury is to be­gin Mon­day and will con­tinue un­til 12 mem­bers plus al­ter­nates have been cho­sen. It is ex­pected to con­tinue through the end of the week, when up­town is to ex­pected to be filled by thou­sands of fans gath­er­ing for the NBA All-Star Game. As of now, Su­pe­rior Court Judge Greg Hayes of Hick­ory does not ex­pect any trial in­ter­rup­tions from the event, a court spokes­woman says.

Keith Scott was killed on Sept. 20, 2016, out­side his north Char­lotte apart­ment. Po­lice say Scott was armed at the time and re­fused to sur­ren­der or put down his weapon after be­ing en­cir­cled by of­fi­cers who were there on an un­re­lated mat­ter.

What fol­lowed were two nights of protests and some­times vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers along the I-85 cor­ri­dor and then into up­town the next day.

The district at­tor­ney’s of­fice later ruled that the Char­lotte-Meck­len­burg po­lice of­fi­cer who shot Scott had not bro­ken the law. Scott’s fam­ily has since sued po­lice and the city.

Char­lotte City Coun­cil­man Brax­ton Win­ston, who came to po­lit­i­cal promi­nence dur­ing the demon­stra­tion that fol­lowed the Scott killing, said the trial won’t undo the wounds suf­fered by the city in Septem­ber 2016.

“This will not pro­vide clo­sure,” he said. “This is about the loss of the lives of two young black men ... the lives of Rayquan Bo­rum and Justin Carr.”

JEFF SINER [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

A pro­tes­tor walks in front of CMPD of­fi­cers in riot gear in Char­lotte on Septem­ber 21, 2016. Pro­tes­tors were march­ing and ral­ly­ing against CMPD of­fi­cer Brent­ley Vin­son's fa­tal shoot­ing of Keith La­mont Scott.

Justin Carr

JOHN D. SIM­MONS jsim­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Rayquan Bo­rum, the man ac­cused of fa­tally shoot­ing Justin Carr, a by­stander, dur­ing Char­lotte’s 2016 up­town ri­ots en­tered a plea of not guilty in the shoot­ing.

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