A North Carolina court of appeals judge was summoned by a criminal court Friday after being accused of nearly hitting Black Lives Matter protesters at a demonstration in downtown Fayetteville on 7 May.
Judge John Tyson of Cumberland County has been summoned to appear in a courtroom in his own county next month where he will need to answer to a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, the Fayetteville Observer reported.
Mr Tyson is one of the most high-profile people accused of being aggressive toward protests demanding racial justice and police reform in the wake of worldwide demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd last year.
The summons came after local activist Myah Warren, 23, told a Cumberland County magistrate judge Friday that Mr Tyson was the one who drove the vehicle that nearly hit her and other Fayetteville Activist Movement rally goers who were protesting fatal police shootings, according to the newspaper.
Ms Warren told The Washington Post on Monday that she believes Mr Tyson was intentionally trying to harm protesters based on his track record as a judge.
“He’s a well-known racist,” she said, referring to a case in which Mr Tyson rejected the notion of race being a factor in the killing of a black man who was fatally struck by a white man’s shotgun at a 2016 party.
David Courie Sr., a law partner at Fayetteville-based Beaver Courie Sternlicht Hearp & Broadfoot law firm, confirmed to the Observer that his firm is representing Mr Tyson in the matter, stressing that the charges are coming from an individual and not law enforcement and emphasising that the charges came a week after the incident.
Mr Tyson and Mr Courie didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about the video, the charge or the allegation of racism.
The city released a 12-minute video of the incident Friday, which shows the SUV that Mr Tyson allegedly drove cruising along the downtown area. Almost 10 minutes later, the same vehicle is seen driving in a closed-to-traffic inner lane painted “Black Lives Do Matter.” The vehicle made a quick stop in the lane before getting back in open traffic lanes.
It’s unclear how close the SUV was to Ms Warren or other protesters.
Ms Warren alleges that Mr Tyson drove around the area once in his state-owned vehicle when no one was in his way. The second time, she said, he sped up and tried to hit the group but he ended up jumping the curb.
Dispatch calls obtained by the Observer revealed that Mr Tyson called to report that there were people in the street blocking traffic and that they were coming around his car. Video released by the city doesn’t show protesters gathering near Mr Tyson’s vehicle.
“It’s a baldfaced lie,” Ms Warren said of Mr Tyson’s call. “He needs to be dealt with for making false accusations to 911.”
Ms Warren said she tried to press charges twice before at the magistrate’s office only to be instructed by civil officers that she couldn’t, or was informed that Mr Tyson was no longer a judge - which is untrue. It wasn’t until an investigator reviewed footage of the incident that she was told she had a case, she said.
Ms Warren, a Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission member, said that Mr Tyson’s alleged action was the most violent experience she’s had in her years of participating in demonstrations.
The judge, who had strong Republican and conservative backing for his run, has been serving on the court of appeals since 2015 and has strong influence in the Fayetteville area, according to Ms Warren. That kind of clout has turned away nearly every lawyer she’s asked for help in her case, she said.
“The whole situation sucks because I feel as if he’s going to get away with it. You were driving a state vehicle, you tried to hit protesters and you lied to 911,” she said. “There’s only so much I can do.”
The Washington Post