By Cash Michaels –
A Black Pender County mother says she will not apologize to two white men who she alleges came to her home in the middle of the night on May 3, 2020—armed and part of an angry “mob”—to demand entry in search of a missing child who wasn’t there.
Monica Shepard made her position clear in an interview with CNN recently in reaction to a District Court judge’s acquittal of the two men—Jordan Kita and Robert Austin Wood—of charges stemming from the incident.
“I’ve said this before—it’s about accountability,” said Ms Shepard, who, along with her teenage son Dameon, are suing Kita, Wood, and at least thirteen other members of the mob for committing “…racialized terror when they approached and menaced the Black family in their home,” according to a press release.
“You can’t just form a mob and go around being vigilante citizens,” Ms. Shepard continued. “There’s laws against that. I’m not interested in sitting down [to discuss anything]. It’s all about accountability at the end of the day.”
Attorneys for Kita, a former New Hanover County sheriff’s deputy, and Wood, have threatened to sue Ms. Shepard, her son, and her attorneys for allegedly portraying Kita, Wood, and the others involved as white racists. They are demanding that the Shepards drop their lawsuit, sit down and discuss the “misunderstanding” with the former defendants, and then apologize to them, or face litigation for slander.
Those attorneys contend that Kita and Wood have lost their reputations as well as tens of thousands of dollars in income, and have been subject to threats, thus making them victims, too.
Ms. Shepard has refused their demands, and her attorneys have told CNN that their lawsuit against Kita, Wood and company will move forward.
By now the May 3rd incident has become nationally infamous.
Kita, then a New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy, led a group of neighbors and supporters in search of a missing young family member, hearing that she had been seen in a Pender County neighborhood.
Kita was still in uniform when he and his group went to the Shepard home. According to Dameon Shepard, who was 18 at the time, when he answered the door, Kita, in uniform complete with service revolver, demanded to know if he was a black teen alleged to be harboring the missing girl. When Dameon denied knowing anything about it, he alleges Kita put his foot in the door, not allowing Dameon to close it.
Dameon saw the revolver, and another member of “mob” standing on the property outside with a weapon as well.
A back-and-forth ensued, waking Dameon’s mother, who came out, became aware of the angry white crowd though the window, and saw Deputy Kita still at the door insisting on coming in.
Ms. Shepard had to reiterate what her son had told Kita, and demand the he and his group leave her property. By then, neighbors had come out of their homes because of the commotion, and the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept. had been called.
Kita was fired from his job as a New Hanover County deputy and ultimately charged by the Pender County District Attorney’s Office with forcible trespass, breaking and entering, and willful failure to discharge duties.
Wood was charged with going armed to the terror of the community for carrying his weapon.
In court, Kita apologized for his actions, Wood said he did not carry the weapon to intimidate anyone, and they both disputed that the Shepards were threatened in anyway, and certainly not racially.
The Shepards attorneys are not convinced, despite the acquittals.
“I think this is all a distraction from the real issues at hand,” Arusha Gordon, associate director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate, which is leading the lawsuit. “…[L]ast May a large group of White people showed up armed late at night, invaded [the Shepards’] home and sense of privacy, and put our clients in fear of their lives.”
Gordon also dismissed allegations by Kita’s and Wood’s defense attorneys that likening the Shepard incident to KKK actions was defamatory, telling CNN, “You can’t divorce North Carolina’s and the country’s history of racist mob violence from this case.”
The fact that a group of White people didn’t consider the optics “or the fact that their actions would totally terrify our clients demonstrates the persistence of White privilege,” Gordon added.
One of the attorneys with the Lawyers Committee heading up the case, Jennifer Nwachukwu, told CNN, “We are here to fight for and advocate for the rights of the Shepards and what they experienced on May 3rd. At this point in history, these kinds of behaviors will not be tolerated. People will not stand by and have these experiences and not feel empowered to seek justice for themselves.”