Local News

Special Prosecutor says no charges will be filed in the death of Jason Walker

A special prosecutor announced Thursday that no charges will be filed against an off-duty Cumberland County Sheriff's deputy accused of killing 37-year-old Jason Walker.

The incident happened on January 8 along Bingham Drive and Shenandoah Drive. Witnesses told police that Walker jumped on the hood of a truck. Inside the truck was Lieutenant Jeffrey Hash, his wife and Hash’s teenage daughter. Walker allegedly tore off the driver’s windshield wiper and started to hit the windshield.

The windshield was cracked and shards of glass were coming into the truck, which was confirmed by the Fayetteville Police Department.

One of the witnesses was Jason Walker’s father.

“He was out here in the daggone street when that fellow drove up. He jumped up on the guy’s hood, the guy got out…started shooting,” Walker told officers. “He pulled out one of the daggone windshield wipers, and he hit the windshield with the wiper.”

Hash told police that he shouted at Walker to stop and he then got out of the truck. Hash said that Walker lunged at him and had something in his hand. Hash told police that he wasn’t sure whether it was the windshield wiper or something else. Hash pulled his .9mm pistol out and shot Walker four times.

The Fayetteville Police Department was the first to be at the scene. Police Chief Gina Hawkins shortly turned the case over to the State Bureau of Investigations. The SBI, after conducting the investigation, turned the case over to the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys.

The autopsy revealed that one bullet entered Walker’s lower chest and traveled through his chest, hitting multiple vital organs. Another bullet entered the top of Walker’s head and lodged in Walker’s spinal cord. A third bullet entered the front of the thigh and exited the left thigh. The last bullet entered Walker’s left-back and exited the left side.

The report shows that with the wounds as they were, Walker’s back was not facing Hash when he was shot, rather Walker was standing to the side.

The SBI report also states that the woman who was at the scene, Elizabeth Ricks, who identified herself as a trauma nurse and applied pressure to Walker’s wounds at the scene, was not and has never been a nurse. Ricks made several public statements following Walker’s death about how she felt a faint pulse when EMS arrived. EMS and multiple other witnesses confirmed that Walker was dead when EMS arrived.

Other evidence found in the SBI investigation showed that two drops of Walker’s blood was found on the interior of the driver’s door near the door pocket. The SBI concluded that this was consistent with Walker being on the hood of the truck and moving toward the driver’s door when shot.

The NC Conference of District Attorneys made the decision not to file any criminal charges against Hash after reviewing the state's evidence, according to a letter from Executive Director, Kimberly Overton Spahos.

"The shooting was indisputably tragic, but based upon these facts, the state of North Carolina will not be able to provide beyond a reasonable doubt that the shooting of Jason Walker was unlawful. Consequently, our office will not be seeking charges related to the death of Jason Walker, " Spahos wrote in the letter to the SBI.

“While it is possible that Walker’s intent was not to enter the truck or to injure Hash or his family, the analysis in every self-defense case requires that we put ourselves in the position of the person who used deadly force. Hash was driving down a public roadway with his family in the vehicle when Walker charged the truck, mounted it, and began a violent assault upon the vehicle. Hash’s entreaties to stop and get off the vehicle were ignored, and when Hash exited the truck, Walker’s offense shifted from the truck to Hash himself,” Spahos wrote. “We cannot view these events from the comfort of our desks after cool reflection, as Hash was not granted the luxury of time and reflection. Instead, he had to make a split-second decision. Additionally, while it is possible that other alternatives were available to Hash, the analysis is not and cannot be whether his actions were the only option or event the best option. When determining whether criminal charges are filed, the question is whether the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the action he took violated the law.”

Hash was put on administrative paid leave from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office the day after the shooting. He will remain on leave until after the Sheriff’s Office conducts its own internal investigation.

Volunteers needed for clean up

Fay clean up “Better Together” is the theme of this year’s initiative to clean up Cumberland County.

Just in time for Earth Day and National Volunteer Week, Fayetteville Beautiful and Cumberland Clean invite volunteers to grab a pair of gloves and a few trash bags for some spring cleaning in Fayetteville on Saturday, April 23, from 8 a.m. to noon.

These events, which happen twice a year, have only grown in popularity since their establishment in September 2006. In the fall of 2021, the most recent event welcomed over 500 volunteers who picked up nearly five tons of trash from over 100 miles of Fayetteville’s streets.

“The goal is to attract as many people as we can,” said Jessica Howell, management analyst for the City Of Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department. “This event is so important because we want to love where we live and take pride in our city. Litter is at an all-time high with the problem steadily growing.”

For those willing to accept it, the mission is a fairly straightforward one. Volunteers can sign up as individuals or teams with supply pick-up between 9 and 11 a.m. Participants sign up to clean a particular area such as a neighborhood, street or stretch of highway and leave their haul in a designated area for pick up.

Fayetteville Beautiful and Cumberland Clean volunteers will receive a t-shirt, trash bags and water before getting started. For the first 100 participants, donuts and other goodies await.

As an added enticement, there will be a photo contest with a prize for those who snap a pic with the most trash bags.
When speaking about this initiative with Anna Chott, the Waste Management Project Coordinator at Sustainable Sandhills, words like “awareness” and “impact” came
up often.

“As an environmental non-profit, we want to be picking up less litter in twenty years,” she said. “We’ve seen other cities and counties get control of their litter problem, and this is what it takes. Volunteers make a difference, but it takes awareness, litter pick-up, enforcement and education.”

“We recently conducted a survey and learned that much of the litter in this area comes from open trucks and the debris that blows from them. Reusable containers, water bottles, grocery bags, all of those things make a difference,” Chott explained.

Ultimately, these two events work as a call to action for the citizens of Fayetteville and neighboring areas to make this city the best it can be, which both women feel is at the core of the event’s success.

“We work closely with Cumberland County, Spring Lake and Hope Mills, which have their events happening, and we’re all spending this Earth Day weekend making our cities more beautiful,” Chott said.

Howell echoes the sentiment, adding, “everybody from surrounding areas comes together to work toward the same goal: keeping our city and county clean.”

To register online with Fayetteville Beautiful, visit fayettevillebeautiful.com. Group representatives should include the total number of volunteers in their online form. Volunteers should scroll down to the active map and select a clean-up location before registering.

To register with Cumberland Clean, email Tim Middleton at tmiddleton@co.cumberland.nc.us or call 910-321-6907.

Spring Lake PD hosts annual Torch Run for Special Olympics

torch The Spring Lake Police Department will host the annual Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run April 23 at 9:00 a.m. at Veteran's Park.

“We are known as the Guardians of the Flame and we support the athletes who have intellectual and physical disabilities in life,” said Napolean McCormick, Evidence Sergeant and Special Olympics coordinator.

“Everyone knows about the Olympics that occur every four years, but the Special Olympics summer games occur annually during the first week in June in Raleigh and the funds that we raise goes toward the equipment, uniforms, and other resources they need to help host their games,” he said.

McCormick added that many of the police officers attend the summer games and the officers present the medals to the athletes at their games.

The Spring Lake Police Department’s fundraising goal is $10,000.

“Yes, our goal is $10,000, but I will be happy if we get $7,000 so we can get our name on the back of the Special Olympics t-shirt,” said McCormick. “If we get our name on the back of the shirt it shows that Spring Lake is heavily involved with Special Olympics.”

The run is approximately two and a half miles long.

“The runner will start at the flag pole at the intersection of Main Street and Ruth Street,” said McCormick. “Then they will continue up Main Street through town; circle the roundabout on the bridge; go across the bridge; turn left and run towards Lillian Black Elementary School; make a right on the street at the stop sign and run around the back of the school and come back to the flag pole.”

He added, “If you are walking you will round the bridge and turn around and come back to the flag pole.”

The Special Olympics is a worldwide movement that was founded in the 1950s by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of former President John F. Kennedy. She observed that individuals with intellectual and physical abilities were treated unfairly so she decided to take action. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her efforts.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics North Carolina began in 1987 and raises more than 1.3 million for Special Olympics North Carolina each year and serves nearly 40,000 athletes.

“We are asking for donations or to purchase a Special Olympics t-shirt or beach towel for $20,” said McCormick.

“If you would like to get your name on the Special Olympics t-shirt, you can do this by becoming a corporate sponsor.”

“It is not a race, it is a symbolic thing showing the community that we are supporting Special Olympics and these athletes,” said McCormick. “We are asking everyone to come out and support this worthy cause.”

Join the Spring Lake Police Department as a “Torch Run Warrior.” Runners will receive a certificate of participation.
Sponsorship information is available at www.sonc.net.

There is no entry fee. Registration starts at 8:15 a.m. on the day of the run.
For more information call 910-237-9470.

Contaminated wells prompt NC county to seek state grant

Contaminated Wells CPP The Gray’s Creek community in Cumberland County could receive federal funding to help address the GenX contamination of some residential wells.

The county Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to apply for North Carolina’s drinking water reserve and wastewater reserve grant.

The grant, which has two rounds of funding in the spring and fall, is financed through federal allocations to the state as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality will administer the funds and determine which applicants are awarded grant money.

If accepted, the county could receive up to $15 million to fund construction of a new central water distribution system in the Gray’s Creek area in southern Cumberland County, according to county documents.

The state’s grant is meant for at-risk water systems for which, among other purposes, the applicant’s intention is to connect residences in disadvantaged, underserved communities to a different water system.

According to water sampling from DEQ, some residential wells in Gray’s Creek are contaminated with GenX, a chemical substance produced in the nearby Chemours plant.

GenX is a trade name for one unregulated per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance, or PFAS, used in manufacturing nonstick coatings, among other purposes, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last month, Cumberland County filed a lawsuit against Chemours and its predecessor company, DuPont, for allegedly releasing millions of pounds of PFAS into the air above its Fayetteville Works facility in the decades following 1970, as reported by Carolina Public Press.

To determine how GenX affects the human body, more studies need to be done, according to DHHS. A small, limited study from the state agency suggests the substance, which DuPont started producing in 2009, may leave the human body quickly.

Previously, the county had allocated $10.5 million for providing an alternative water system for Gray’s Creek. A pending contract is in place with the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, but the board has not yet finalized and approved that agreement.

The county has until May 2 to apply for the state grant.

If DEQ doesn’t accept Cumberland County’s application, the department will automatically consider the application for the next round of funding in the fall.

The state could grant a low-interest loan to supplement funding if Cumberland County accepts, according to DEQ.

If funding is still available after both application rounds, DEQ will give more to accepted applicants in $5 million increments until all the money is exhausted. DEQ will reward applicants in increments in order of priority, which the agency will determine.

PHOTO CREDIT: Chemours' Fayetteville Works Plant Manager Brian Long, describes a newly installed mechanism for waste management and emissions reduction in late 2018. Melissa Sue Gerrits / Carolina Public Press

Skate into change with local and state candidates

rollout logo Cora’s Community Foundation is hosting “The Rollout,” an event that seeks to bring local and state politicians together with their constituents for a night of skating and fun.

“The Roll Out” will be held Tuesday, May 3, from 5:30 until 8:30 p.m. at Round-A-Bout Skating Center.

“This event is an open invitation to all candidates, no matter their affiliation, to come under one roof and interface with the public. We want people to be able to put a face to the names on the ballot,” said Rakeem “Keem” Jones, Cora’s Community Foundation’s co-founder and executive director.

“The Roll Out” is part of an initiative to engage more voters aged 18 to 35 to register 1000 new voters.

“I want to engage the area where people don’t go. We already know where the voters are, so I want to engage the young dude from Murchison Road who maybe doesn’t know the importance of voting in local elections or voting at all,” Jones told Up & Coming Weekly.

“Now that I know how voting affects us, I want to be a bridge between candidates and the community in a setting not so formal. It’s hard to skate in a suit and tie,” he joked.

There won’t be any speeches on the night of “The Roll Out,” nor any big political ideas or agendas. Candidates will have on nametags and are encouraged to meet and engage in fellowship with potential voters.

“So far, the response from candidates has been great,” Jones stated. Any candidate interested can participate in this event, but they must RSVP by April 22.

“I want people to take away knowledge of the people they’re voting for instead of voting for the sign they see the most. I want people to ask the questions that help them make a more informed decision,” Jones said.

Though Cora’s Community Foundation does not endorse any particular candidate, Jones speaks a great deal about accountability when it comes to politics.

“If you don’t know who you’re voting for, you don’t know who to hold accountable,” he said. “You don’t have to be rude, but you can be informed and push back where it matters. This event is about bringing power back to the people.”

“The Roll Out’s” mission is two-fold. Along with the candidate meet and greet, the event also hopes to bring some awareness to the rising violence in Fayetteville.

Co-founder of Heal the Ville, Demetria Murphy, will attend to spread her message of peace and healing for the city.

Jones, whose sister was murdered in 2019, feels strongly about this message and is always eager to partner with those who seek to uplift the community.

Getting his start in social activism by leading a protest on Scarborough Road in 2020, Jones felt compelled to do more for the city of Fayetteville.

Jones founded Cora’s Community Foundation in 2021 along with his fiance Grace Pelt, Alexis McLaurin and Shea and Christian Mosely.

Cora’s Community Foundation, named after Jones’ late mother, Cora Denise Jones, is a grassroots organization dedicated to addressing systemic inequalities and providing solutions that benefit everyone.

Since forming in May of last year, the Foundation has led or participated in several outreach projects that directly empower, support or celebrate the people of Fayetteville.

Teaming up with big names in the community, such as Grammy-nominated Fayetteville rapper, Morray, celebrity barber Vic Blends, and the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, to name a few, Cora’s Foundation has wasted little time in getting to work for its community, serving thousands thus far.

Jones is hopeful that the “The Roll Out” event will be equally beneficial to the community.

“Everyone likes to skate, and everyone likes to eat,” Jones said. “We want people to come out and have a good time, good food and a good vibe. We want people to get to know each other in a family-friendly atmosphere.”

Round-A-Bout Skating Center is located at Eutaw Shopping Center at 880 Elm St.

Candidates must RSVP by April 22 and can do so at 910-709-0826 or corascommunityfoundation@gmail.com.

For more information, contact Cora’s Community Foundation at 910-709-0826 or corascommunityfoundation@gmail.com.


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