Pastors ask Guilford County DA to drop charges against juvenile

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Jose Charles with his mother, Tamara Figueroa (photo by Jordan Green)

Greensboro clergy are attempting to meet with Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson this afternoon to ask him to drop charges against Jose Charles, who was charged as a 15-year-old with assault on an officer in an encounter with police at the Fun Fourth Festival in Center City Park last July.

Charles has since been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress. His mother is requesting that the police body camera video of the incident be released to the public. An incident report filed by Greensboro police Cpl. KR Johnson substantiates the charge of assault on an officer by noting that Charles cursed Officer BS Hilton and spat “blood and saliva in Hilton’s facial area.”

Tamara Figueroa, Charles’ mother, told Triad City Beat: “The way he was pinned, the blood was going into the mouth. He said, ‘I’m choking, I’m choking.’ When they let him up the blood sprayed at the officer. They tried to say he spit. He did spit, but it wasn’t with malice.”

The police complaint review committee of the Greensboro Human Relations Commission issued a finding disagreeing with the police department’s investigation into Figueroa’s complaint about the incident. The complaint review committee has requested that Chief Wayne Scott review the decision. If the complaint review committee still disagrees with the police department’s decision after meeting with Scott, they can request an additional review by City Manager Jim Westmoreland.

City council has voted to review the police body camera video after the complaint review committee’s process is complete.

In a March 30 letter to District Attorney Henderson, the clergy wrote, “We consider the body camera footage to essentially be ‘an independent witness.’ Further, we have learned that many in our city believe that your initiative to deny Jose possession of the police body camera footage is without true basis in law and is unethical and coercive. It appears that the interest of this child is being sacrificed to protect the image of the Greensboro Police Department. It appears that you are bringing the full weight of the district attorney’s office and the Greensboro Police Department down on this juvenile to compel him to plead guilty to felony assault on an officer, which Jose firmly contends he did not do.”

The letter is signed by the Revs. Cardes H. Brown, Nelson Johnson, William F. Wright, T. Anthony Spearman and Randall Keeney, among others.

The letter continues, “Our understanding is that a prosecutor’s professional duty is to seek justice, not merely a conviction. Certainly, it is not to protect police wrongdoing. We believe that Chief Scott or the appropriate police personnel should have informed you that the factual basis for the felony assault and the related charges are in serious dispute and require further review, especially before the weight of your office placed this child in the position of being compelled to plead guilty to something that neither Jose, nor citizens present at the scene, nor the PCRB, nor the independent witness (the police body camera) agree that he did.”

Speaking on behalf of boss, Administrative Assistant Sylvia Christopher said District Attorney Doug Henderson would have no comment until the case goes to court on May 11.