Cherokee Scout, Murphy, North Carolina - News for Subscribers
Coin toss decides school board seat

    Peachtree – Joey Shore of Culberson was selected Thursday night as the seventh member of the Cherokee County Board ...

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Georgia bank robber indicted in Murphy BB&T heist

    Murphy – An indictment was handed down by the grand jury last week in the 2016 robbery of the ...

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Charges dropped against former county resident

    Murphy – A former Martins Creek resident accused of molesting a young girl in 2016 saw all charges dismissed ...

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Former jail guard indicted

    Murphy – Former Cherokee County Detention Center officer Wesley Gage Killian faces two misdemeanor charges of assault after a grand jury indicted him Dec. 3.
    The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office fired both Killian and another guard, Joshua Gunter, on May 11, nine days after they were involved in a May 2 altercation with inmate George Victor Stokes. If Killian is convicted of the misdemeanor charges, he could potentially face time behind prison bars.
    The indictment says Killian assaulted Stokes “with his shoed foot, a deadly weapon, by kicking him in the face” and that he did “assault and strike George Victor Stokes by kicking him in the face, thereby inflicting serious injury.”
    The sheriff’s office has so far refused to release detailed information about the incident and did not respond to another request Carolina Public Press made Dec. 5.
    However, Gunter previously said he and Killian confronted Stokes after the inmate threatened to throw both detention center officers over the second-story railing if they didn’t give him a television remote control.
    At the time, Killian had worked at the county jail for only a few months as a part-time transport officer.
    Stokes has a history of threatening guards, law enforcement officers and federal judges, court records show. In 2012, he was sentenced to 30 years after a conviction in Hoke County for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, robbery, kidnapping, possession of a firearm by a felon and being a habitual felon.
    In a previous interview, Gunter described firing his stun gun to stop Stokes, with only one prong hitting the inmate. Stokes then struggled with officers before eventually handcuffing himself, Gunter said.
    As they took Stokes down the stairs while handcuffed, the inmate struggled again, leading Gunter to club Stokes with the stun gun, Gunter said. With Stokes on the ground, Gunter said Killian kicked Stokes in the head, similar to the allegation described in the indictment.
    Killian’s attorney, Zeyland McKinney, said he had no comment about the indictment.

Harsh words
    Gunter, who was just shy of his three-year anniversary when he was fired, said he had heard the State Bureau of Investigation was trying to contact him during its investigation into the incident with Stokes. Gunter said he later learned the sheriff’s office had given the SBI the wrong phone number for him. An email to the SBI seeking to confirm this went unanswered.
    After the SBI completed his investigation and Gunter was not facing potential indictment, Gunter said the sheriff’s office offered him his job back.
    “I turned it down because I won’t work under that sheriff; that man puts his ego above his morals,” Gunter said of Sheriff Derrick Palmer, a former pastor at Vengeance Creek Baptist Church in Marble. “He’s a coward that hides behind a badge and a man who hides his sins under his Bible.”
    Gunter added, “All he had to do was watch the video (of the incident). I did what was necessary. The only reason I was fired is because he (Palmer) didn’t want to put in the effort to help me.”
    Palmer said Monday said the media was being manipulated by divisive and unfair comments such as those by Gunter.
    “These stories are doing nothing but tearing a community apart when we need to be looking solutions to bring us together,” he said. “Innocent people who are just trying to serve the community are being persecuted.”
    The surveillance video of the incident is not a public record and cannot be released to the public without a court order under North Carolina law.
    As for Killian’s indictment, Gunter said he feels torn.
    “Common sense tells you not to kick someone in chains,” he said, but Killian had “never been taught what could happen to him for doing it. He wasn’t the only one there that was untrained.”
    Gunter said while he was under investigation, he unsuccessfully tried to find jobs in security. He now works in the manufacturing industry.

Public records dispute
    Palmer has consistently declined to produce public records that Carolina Public Press has requested, including details of the incident involving Stokes, Killian and Gunter.
    Throughout, the sheriff has cited justifications for withholding records, such as the SBI’s ongoing investigations. County attorney Darryl Brown, who has supported the sheriff’s position on these points, indicated that the sheriff is not obligated to explain why a requested record or information is denied in part or in full.
    According to state media law expert Amanda Martin, lead counsel for the N.C. Press Association, their interpretation of state law on these points is incorrect.
    “Anyone denying you access to a record needs to tell you,” Martin said, citing a portion of General Statute 132-6.2(c): “Custodians of public records shall respond to such requests as promptly as possible. If the request is granted, the copies shall be provided as soon as reasonably possible. If the request is denied, the denial shall be accompanied by an explanation of the basis for the denial. If asked to do so, the person denying the request shall, as promptly as possible, produce the explanation for the denial in writing.”
    She added that even if certain reports might be withheld for legitimate reasons, General Statute 132-1.4 describes information to which the requester is entitled, including the general nature of an incident under investigation, which so far has been withheld in the case that led to the indictment.
    As for the SBI investigation, that “has absolutely no bearing on anything,” Martin said. Indeed, she noted that G.S. 132-1.4(f) specifically rules out this claim: “The use of a public record in connection with a criminal investigation or the gathering of criminal intelligence shall not affect its status as a public record.”
    The same provision also prevents an outside agency, such as the SBI, from ordering the sheriff not to release such records.
    Cherokee Scout Editor Matthew Osborne contributed to this report.

Andrews toddler is a 'pint-sized hero'
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   Andrews – Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Pat Ackerman’s hero happens to be 2-year-old Lochlainn Ledford of ...

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Veterans donate car to late Marine's son
Tony Jensen inspects his new wheels with Rick June (right) of Warriors Veteran Outreach and Larry Thunder Wolf Limon of the American Legion (center). Photo by BEN KATZ

    Murphy – Justin Jensen, for whom the Warriors Veteran Outreach camp downtown is named, was a dedicated U.S. Marine,

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Art Walk holds gingerbread opening, White Light winners
Richard Greene packs up his art after a quiet final Art Walk of 2018 on Friday night in downtown Murphy. Photo by BEN KATZ

    Murphy – The last Friday Art Walk of the year wasn’t particularly busy, but the youngest artists there were ...

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Palmer wants 'culture change' at embattled jail
Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer (left) is sworn in Monday by Judge William Coward for his second term in office. Photo by BEN KATZ

    Murphy – Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer took the oath of office for a second term Monday amid a ...

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Cherokee County pledges college funding, if needed

    Murphy – A collective sigh of relief went up from Peachtree on Monday night, as the Cherokee County Board ...

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County opposes 'agreement' for DSS standards

    Murphy – Cherokee County again stood its ground Monday night on an edict sent down earlier this year by ...

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