“I know he wasn’t a perfect son; he was my son,” Audria McIntyre said about Maurice Hagler, who was murdered in December 2014. “I know he got caught with marijuana.”
Hagler faced felony marijuana charges at the time of his death. An affidavit attached to a search warrant in the case indicates that TA Weavil, an investigator in the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office’s vice-narcotics unit, had met with an informant who indicated that Hagler was distributing “large amounts of marijuana” from the house. The affidavit warned, “This informant fears physical reprisal should the informant’s identity become known.”
Similarly, Jauhan Bethea, who was fatally shot in his house on Burton Avenue in September 2015, carried a 2007 conviction for trafficking MDMA, commonly known as molly, in 2007 and 1999 conviction for cocaine possession.
Bethea, who was 34 at the time of his death, was quiet and reserved, the type of person who mainly kept to himself, said his mother, Mary Bethea. His father, Melvin Dowe, said Jauhan told him it was hard to find a job because he had a felony on his record.
Dowe said Bethea’s girlfriend and the children had just left for a funeral 30 minutes before someone broke into the house through a window and shot him.
“I know it was someone who knew him real good,” Dowe said. “He didn’t have a lot of friends. His girlfriend had friends over. I feel like it was one of her girlfriends who set him up.”
Mary Bethea added, “Somebody knows something. If it was their child, they would want someone to talk, too.”
Jauhan Bethea had four children. The youngest, Jauhan Jr., was 16 months old at the time of his death.
Now 3, Jauhan Jr. occasionally throws screaming fits because he misses his father, his grandmother said.
“He’s hollering: ‘Dad, dad! Where you at?’”
Dowe said Jauhan had given him a pressure washer for Father’s Day, and they planned to start a side business together to earn extra money.
“There’s stuff we had been planning to do,” Dowe said as his wife wept. “I don’t bring up stuff like that because it’s hard for her — little stuff we had been planning to do. That Father’s Day was one of the best Father’s Days I had.”
Before Jauhan died, Dowe told him about his plans to buy a storage unit to put in the backyard.
“I said, ‘Jauhan, I finally decided to get the storage building,’” Dowe recalled. “They were building it, and they delivered it the day before his funeral. I think about him every time I step into the storage shed.”
Dowe said he’d like to know some details about Jauhan’s murder like whether there was evidence of a struggle and whether the house had been ransacked.
“We don’t know anything,” Dowe said. “It seems like [the police] avoid us.
“I went there [to the police department], and they wouldn’t even send someone to talk to us,” he added. “I’ve only been a law-abiding citizen. When this happened I got a different perspective on law officers.”
Assistant Chief Larry Casterline dismissed Dowe’s account as “ludicrous,” adding that he could come to police headquarters and file a complaint with the professional standards division if he wished.
“If that detective was there, and they didn’t have someone at their desk, they would come out,” Casterline said. “You’re not going to ignore someone who calls you a ‘racist.’ This is 2018 [sic]. We are about customer service.”
The High Point Police Department now considers the cases of Gerald Williamson, Maurice Hagler and Jauhan Bethea to be “cold,” said Lt. Rick Johnson, who supervises the violent crimes unit.
“Obviously, the overwhelming percentage of violent crime is drug-related, or related to mental health or alcohol,” Casterline said. “It’s typically not innocent bystanders that are the victims. When you read about drive-by shootings, 95 percent is two groups going back and forth. You’ll have the Bloods and Crips with drug gangs competing for turf. They’re robbing drug dealers or places that gambling is going on. They know there’s money there. They know they’re not going to call the police because the victims don’t want the police involved.”
Many, though not all, of the family members and intimate partners find Casterline’s characterization to be infuriating.
Michael J. Davis was fatally shot in his front yard in the Five Points neighborhood in October 2016. Although Davis carried a conviction for felony robbery with a dangerous weapon when he was in his early twenties, his record does not include any drug charges.
“He was not an innocent person; just a regular person,” said Davis’ aunt, Tonya Thornton. “He was 34 years old with four kids; great father. He grew a garden. He built the inside of his house with his own hands. Whenever people heard that he got killed, it was, ‘Who? Mike D?’ When he had his first kid he got in trouble. Was it right? No. He owned his home. He wasn’t a drug dealer. He did smoke weed. He worked at Family Dollar full time.”
Thornton said when she and Davis’ mother call the police department, “no one picks up and no one calls back.”
The command staff at the police department is familiar with the charge, and Casterline said the family members leveling it are just upset because the detectives tell them they have no new information.
“Every man and woman who wears the uniform, most are married,” Casterline said. “They have moms, dads, uncles and cousins, and all of them at one time have experienced loss, especially the detectives who are older. If you want your case solved and you want something done, and a detective calls and says, ‘We have no other information,’ frequently they’re not happy with that. But most of [the detectives] will call them back.”
Rosalind Hoover (see related story) — whose fiancé, Donte Gilmore, was fatally stabbed at his home on Franklin Avenue on Feb. 1, said the police have attempted to intimidate her because of her outspokenness about their handling of the case.
“I have even been told that I could not get anything on Donte’s case if I keep speaking out on Facebook and being around Tonya [Thornton],” Hoover said.
“I doubt that highly,” Casterline said when told of Hoover’s complaint. He added that, if sustained, the conduct described by Hoover would amount to a departmental violation for rudeness as opposed to intimidation, and that she should file a complaint with the professional standards division if she feels she has been mistreated.
The fact that Chief Shultz has repeatedly declined to attend or send a representative to monthly meetings of the High Point NAACP reinforces a sense among some family members that the department is indifferent towards the deaths of their loved ones.
“It’s important for meetings to be productive,” Casterline said. “If I know you can’t stand me or you’re not going to be honest with me or it’s not going to be productive… at some point we’re gonna move on.”
Pastor Brad Lilley, who serves as the community coordinator for the High Point NAACP, said Chief Shultz reluctantly attended the first community meeting in March, after Lilley met with the chief and City Manager Greg Demko.
“They were very apprehensive about coming to this meeting,” Lilley said. “As the city manager put it: Was I trying to make them look bad? As soon as I walked into the room, they began to question me. Chief Shultz asked: Was I trying to set them up? They had in mind that I had some kind of hidden agenda. This community meeting was the best thing that could happen to the community. I thought if we stand shoulder to shoulder that those who perpetuate these killings would see that the community is standing united with the police department to stop the violence. That has always been the agenda — to stop the violence.”
Shultz said he would not discuss anything personal between him and Pastor Lilley, but he said he meets with a representative of the High Point NAACP once a week, much as he does with representatives of the Latino community. After he attended the March NAACP meeting, Shultz said he decided it didn’t make sense to have police there because he doesn’t want to discuss personnel issues or specific cases in public. He also said when mothers claim that the police don’t talk to them, it doesn’t do any good for officers to publicly contradict them.
Tonya Thornton — whose nephew, Michael J. Davis, was murdered in 2016 — contends that the police make a broad-brush characterization that black victims of violence are involved in drug dealing as a way to excuse their lack of progress.
“Where black people is getting shot and murdered, they’re treated as suspects instead of victims,” she said.
“We’re asking the police chief: Why aren’t you protecting us? 27260 and 27262 are the ZIP codes you’re policing, but you’re protecting 27265. You’re setting up roadblocks in our neighborhoods. I think it’s their preference. If I’m wrong I don’t think they’re showing me any different.”
That’s not true, Casterline said.
“Our job is to get violent people off the streets,” Casterline said. “Every time a gun is fired, that bullet has to go somewhere. And if it misses its intended target, where’s it going? To me it’s kind of sad that someone would think that, especially the way officers risk their lives every day and put in the time to solve these crimes. The idea that we don’t make the same effort just because of someone’s skin color is outrageous.”
During two separate interviews, Casterline repeatedly emphasized that the police are reluctant to share details with family members for a variety of reasons, including that they might share the information and compromise the investigation or in some cases the family members might themselves be under suspicion. But when challenged on whether his characterization of violent crime as being monolithically driven by the drug trade, Casterline volunteered that investigators have heard “street talk” that Michael J. Davis had “ripped off someone of a large amount of marijuana.” He added that the department was planning to release the information in the hopes that someone in the community would come forward with information that would help police make an arrest.
“I don’t appreciate that they would share it publicly before they shared it with the family,” Tonya Thornton, Davis’ aunt, said. “They don’t talk to us.”
Thornton expressly gave her blessing for Triad City Beat to publish the information, even at the risk that it might defame her nephew, because she believes it’s important for people to know how the police are treating the case.
“It’s always drugs — that’s horrible,” she said. “If your white neighbor got shot, they would not say it was drug-related. They would look for other reasons. That pisses me off.”
Lt. Johnson, who supervises the violent crimes unit, said the department currently considers the investigations into the Davis and Gilmore homicides to be “active, heading towards cold.”
Audria McIntyre, the mother of Maurice Hagler, said she used to call the detective every couple days, but now she figures he’ll call her if he has any new information. She trusts that he’s still pursuing leads even though her son’s homicide is now considered a “cold case.”
“A lot of people are doing a lot of talking, but they’re not going to the police,” McIntyre said. “It’s all rumors. If it was your brother, if it was your nephew, if it was your uncle, you would want that closure. There’s no honor among thieves. They’re going to turn on you. I don’t want another mother to wake up and have a hole in her heart. No mother should bury a child, because it’s a hurting thing.”