WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — A law firm that advocates for victims of racial discrimination has filed a lawsuit over an incident in North Carolina in which it said a Black woman’s home came under siege by an armed group looking for a missing teenage girl.
The Washington-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed the suit Tuesday in a Pender County court on behalf of Monica Shepard and her son, Dameon. It said the armed group went to Shepard’s home on May 3, 2020, seeking a biracial girl who had been reported missing earlier that day but was later found safe.
Named as a defendant in the suit is Jordan Kita, a New Hanover County sheriff’s deputy who was fired and is facing charges of forcible trespass, breaking and entering and willful failure to discharge duties. Also named are Kita’s father and 13 others including a local resident, Austin Wood.
The lawsuit seeks a judgment in excess of $25,000, a jury trial and punitive damages to be determined by a jury, among other motions.
James W. Lea, a lawyer for Shepard’s family, said Jordan Kita was in uniform and carrying his service weapon at the time he led an armed group that approached Shepard’s door. The lawsuit said the incident was an example of “the history of white mobs acting with impunity and reckless disregard” toward Blacks.
Wood was also carrying an AR-15 and showed it to a captain with the Pender County Sheriff’s Office who went to the Shepard’s home, the lawsuit said.
At one point, according to the lawsuit, Kita stuck his foot in the door of the home as he demanded the group enter. Lea said the teenage girl had been reported missing earlier on May 3 and subsequently was found safe elsewhere.
Monica Shepard told news outlets that her son had repeatedly tried to point out that the group had the wrong house but they wouldn’t leave. Eventually, a neighbor called the sheriff’s office. She said the group’s target was a home next door to the Shepards and a teen who lived there, but that person had moved out a month earlier.
According to the lawsuit, two Pender County sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, as did a sheriff’s captain. But the captain conducted no interviews and filed no charges, the lawsuit said. No injuries were reported and no one was arrested, according to the lawsuit.
The suit made reference to the state’s past history of mob violence against Blacks, including an outburst of violence instigated by an armed mob of white residents in Wilmington that led to the deaths of about 100 African Americans in 1898. The suit also referred to past lynchings of African Americans since the 1800s that claimed more than 120 lives in the state.