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IMPERFECT justice

by Jordan Green

Typographical error, procedural delay, mar criminal case against security guard accused of assaults. Surveillance video taken from the Depot in Greensboro on July 2, 2008 shows an alleged assault by Lankford Protective Service Lt. Byron Wayne Meadows against Greensboro Transit Authority patron Russell Kilfoil. (courtesy images)

Surveillance video from the night of July 2, 2008 shows Lankford Protective Services Lt. Byron Wayne Meadows striding briskly behind 22-year-old Russell Kilfoil past the double doors that open from the waiting area inside the Greensboro transit hub onto the sprawling shed where buses idled as the drivers prepared for the final run of the night. As they near Slip 13, Kilfoil turns with his arms at his side, craning his head forward. The video is silent, so it’s hard to tell whether the young man says anything, but Meadows soon makes a move on Kilfoil, grabbing at his collar area and knocking him off balance, causing him to fall out of the camera’s frame. Kilfoil has said Meadows confronted him because the security guard thought he had ignored an order to move to a designated area to smoke a cigarette. “He grabbed me, punched me in my head,” Kilfoil would later write in an affidavit. “I tried to get away from him, but he kept hold of my shirt and my religious necklace I was wearing, ripped my shirt, broke the necklace and held me contained by my arms, put me to the floor with his foot to my back.” Meadows describes the incident differently in a written statement cited in a Greensboro Human Relations Department report, contending that he was anticipating an attack from Kilfoil and that “in order to deescalate the situation, I reached for Kilfoil’s right wrist with my right arm in a self-defense mechanism called the arm bar, causing him to slightly lose his balance.” Human relations administrator Yamile Nazar Walker rejected Meadows’ version of events. “Kilfoil takes a step back when Meadows lunges towards him and strikes with his right fist and forearm across his head, face and neck,” she wrote. “The video evidence is irrefutable in its record of the event, displaying that if Meadows reached for Kilfoil’s right wrist with his right arm, his movements would have been waist high and crossing the front of Kilfoil’s body, not up in the head, face and neck area.” Walker concluded that Meadows, who is white, violated the city’s public accommodation ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, when he allegedly assaulted Kilfoil, who is Hispanic. Three days after Kilfoil’s run-in with Meadows, a 39year-old GTCC student named Hiram Gardner reported that he, too, was assaulted by Meadows at the transit hub. Gardner said he had left the Depot to get something to eat at a restaurant owned by some friends on South Elm Street, and then returned to wait for his bus. He was sitting on one of the benches inside talking on his cell phone to a friend when, Gardner alleges, Meadows dove at him, grabbed his neck and slammed him on the bench. Gardner called the police and an officer was dispatched to take his report. “I had to ask myself: ‘Why did this man do this?’” Gardner said recently. “You go through the checklist. People stereotype, but I don’t look threatening. I’m not a really big guy. I don’t carry myself in such a way that people would be threatened. So it’s obvious to me that this man has racial problems. And he uses his influence downtown to get away with it.” A Dean’s list student at GTCC and a volunteer basketball coach for a local program that provides mentorship to young men, Gardner had said he was not inclined to let the incident go, although he would ultimately abandon the case. The cases would seem to be cut and dried: Two alleged assaults against Greensboro transit riders — one of them caught on video and the other described in a police report — warrants taken out for the suspect’s arrest, trials and an eventual determination of guilt or innocence. Yet the wheels of justice have moved creakily for Kilfoil and Gardner. From the start, the two cases have been hobbled by runaround, typographical error, processing delay, missed opportunities to secure evidence and an apparent lack of enthusiasm for arresting a suspect and prosecuting the defendant for the alleged crimes. Details in the human relations report suggest that Meadows was eager to sweep the incident under the rug. Surveillance video shows the security guard leading a handcuffed Kilfoil into his office, but the human relations report found that no incident report was filed to document the incident, as required by city policy. Once the breach came to light, Meadows was reduced from full-time to part- time at the transit hub. Michael Speedling, who oversees the security contract for the city, said the disciplinary action was taken at his order. Kilfoil described Meadows in his interview during the human relations investigation as “seeming surprised when he was able to speak English.” The young man told Walker he wanted Meadows to see him as a “human being who could speak English.” During his detention, Kilfoil attempted to obtain his captors’ names so he could take appropriate action later. Kilfoil and Officer Omar Mahoney, who was working at the transit hub at the time of the alleged assault, both told Walker that when Kilfoil tried to write down Mahoney’s name, Meadows told him to throw the paper away. Meadows also looked up some records on the computer inside the security office and learned that Kilfoil was a member of the Latin Kings, an organization whose members prefer the longer and more ceremonial moniker the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. Kilfoil was arrested at an Italian restaurant where he worked as a cook in early November on a felony charge of abductingchildren. He said he was fired from the job a week before Christmas,possibly because of the arrest. The felony charge was subsequentlydismissed by the District Attorney’s office, but Kilfoil still faces amisdemeanor charge of contributing the delinquency of a juvenile. Thestory of the Latin Kings in Greensboro has taken many bizarre turnsover the past seven months, but the essential elements of the narrativeinclude their much-publicized effort to secure a peace agreement amongstreet organizations and a near-obsessive campaign by the GreensboroPolice Department to suppress them. Kevin McIntyre, another securityguard interviewed by Walker, said he watched Kilfoil walk away from theDepot. Neither spoke. Later, McIntyre reportedly asked Meadows what hadtranspired. McIntyre described Meadows in his interview withWalker as placing his fingers to his lips and saying, ‘Shhh….” Withintwo days of each other Kilfoil and Gardner took out warrants forMeadows’ arrest. Kilfoil said he was initially told by a magistratethat he could not take out a warrant because Meadows was a policeofficer, while Gardner said he was told that any warrant against apolice officer or private security guard must be handled by theDistrict Attorney’s office. Neither can recall the name of themagistrate who gave them the erroneous information. Both demonstratedpersistence and returned to the Guilford County Magistrate’s office,and took out warrants against Meadows. Guilford ChiefMagistrate Judge Charles Lucas characterized Kilfoil and Gardner’sallegations as “hearsay” in an interview last week. A city graduallycreeping up to the quarter-million mark in population, Greensboro canstill operate like a small town in many ways despite an influx ofYankees taking advantage of cheap real estate and low taxes, despiteLatinos gradually establishing themselves and despite a steady trickleof refugees expanding their respective enclaves. Personalrelationships matter in all strata of the society. Gardner said hesuspects that Meadows has worked professional ties in the criminaljustice system to his advantage. And he readily admitted toconnections of his own that seemed to help oil the gears of justice.For instance, he said he plays basketball with the brother of thepolice officer who came out to the Depot to take his report. And whenhe returned to the Magistrate’s office after his sidetrack to theDistrict Attorney’s office, it was Magistrate Carleen Jenkins, whograduated from Dudley High School a couple years ahead of Gardner, whoagreed to take out the warrant for him. Meadows’ roots in Greensboro donot go as deep as Gardner’s. A daughter’s birth certificate indicatesthat Meadows was born in West Virginia, and other court records show that only a few years out of high school he married a young woman there. The first marriage fell apart after seven years, and the mid-1980s found him working as a construction foreman in Galveston, Texas.After fathering a second daughter, court documents state that Meadowsended his relationship with his second wife in 1992. By the time hefiled for divorce in 1998, he was living in Guilford County. Meadowswent to work for the Gibsonville Police Department in 2003, andresigned in 2006. The Greensboro human relations report indicates thatMeadows was suspended from the Gibsonville Police Department for analleged assault on a woman. The report states, “Although Meadows wascleared of charges and offered reinstatement, he declined.” Gardner’swarrant against Meadows was served on July 23, nearly two weeks afterit was issued. The warrant taken out by Kilfoil did not go so smoothly.Issued on July 8, it would not be served until two days beforeChristmas. Kilfoil’s Affidavit for Criminal Charges.

identifies the suspectas “BW Meadows.” That was the name signed to a handwritten orderreceived from the security guard that informed him he was banned fromthe Depot for30 days, Kilfoil says. Kilfoil also provided the name ofMeadows’ employer and the Greensboro address where the company isheadquartered on his affidavit. Magistrate Julia P. Jamiesoninexplicably entered the defendant’s name as “Bryan Wayne Meadows,” andentered a date of birth for him that does not correspond to that in therecords of the Greensboro Police Department warrant squad for ByronWayne Meadows. Jamieson hung up on a reporter during an interview lastmonth, and did not return a subsequent call seeking an explanation forher handling of the warrant. Guilford County Chief MagistrateJudge Charles Lucas declined to comment on the discrepancy between theactual name of the defendant and the name entered on the warrant byJamieson. The paper languished with the Greensboro PoliceDepartment warrant squad for several months. On Dec. 22, Cpl. K.LaBoard said that the warrant had not been served because the name didnot match that of the person located at the address for LankfordProtective Services. That’s typical procedure, said Sgt. DJDavis, who heads the warrant squad. If the name of the suspect wereincorrect, he said, “He could possibly get out of the charge.” Aprofessor who teaches criminal law at Elon Law School in Greensborodisagreed. “A lot of times [magistrates] don’t know the defendant’sname, and they can use an alias,” Steven Friedland said. “I don’t thinkin the long run that will interfere with the prosecution.” Sgt.Davis added that five months between the date a warrant is issued andwhen it is served is not uncommon. “We have thousands of papers here,and sometimes it takes months before we serve them, and sometimes wecan serve them the next day,” he said, adding that “we typically don’tput a whole lot of time and energy into misdemeanors. Weprioritize felonies — serious assaults, sexual assaults, shootings andcuttings.” Davis said the identity of the victim — for example,Kilfoil’s membership in the Latin Kings, an organization considered agang by the police — does not influence the warrant squad’sprioritization of cases. Nor, he said, does the defendant’s identity. “Ifhe works for the Greensboro Police Department and he has a warrant,then the warrant will get served,” Davis said. “That warrant might notget served as quickly as people want it to be served. We’ll get to it. We’re short-staffed like everybody else in the city. We got probably a thousand pieces of paper last month.” Magistrate Jamieson spoke to YES! Weekly aboutthe un-served warrant, and this reporter attempted to reach Meadows onDec. 22. That day, Meadows’ lawyer worked out an agreement with theDistrict Attorney to reduce his client’s bond, which was signed thefollowing day by District Court Judge Polly Sizemore. On Dec. 23,Meadows turned himself at the magistrate’s office and was releasedwith-out bond after signing a written promise to appear that wasapproved by Jamieson. On the same day, Meadows filed a No-Contact Order for Stalking or Nonconsensual Sexual Contact against YES! Weekly, allegingthat a “Yes Magazine representative has contacted me 2 times about apending court case and personal information about myself and my job. Ihave asked them not to contact me, and I am not at liberty to discussthis case.” A district court judge summarily threw the order out.Subsequent calls to Ken Free, one of Meadow’s lawyers, have goneunreturned. Meadows’ arrest before Christmas came atop anotherunwelcome turn of events for the security guard. In mid-December, afterreceiving the human relations report detailing the alleged assault ofRussell Kilfoil, City Manager Mitchell Johnson issued an order prohibiting Meadows from working at any city facility. The city’s contract with Lankford Protective Services gives the city final say over which employees work on city property. GreensboroSecurity Director Michael Speedling said that after Lankford took overthe contract from Kimber Guard & Patrol in 2005, the city requiredthe new company to implement a report-writing training afterdeficiencies were uncovered. “We have a very professionalforce, and we’re making constant improvements,” Speedling said. Headded that the contract requires all security guards working for thecity to receive certification from the NC Private Protective ServicesBoard in the use of expandable batons, pepper spray, unarmedself-defense and handcuffing procedures. Lankford describes itself in its proposal for the contract as “one of the largest company police agencies” in North Carolina. Thecompany listed officer pay for the first year of its contract at$20,800. In additional to several other contracts, it provides securityat the Guilford County Courthouse. Engaging bus passengers andcontract transit employees in a discussion about the conduct of thesecurity guards assigned to the Depot is like entering a twilight zoneof evasion, vagary, equivocation and silence. Homeless peoplewho depend on the kindness of the security guards to circumvent thecity’s anti-loitering ordinance and find shelter from the cold evenwhen they don’t have money for bus fare variously defend and frown uponthe hired muscle. Yamile Nazar Walker of the city’s human relations department found herself in a confrontation with Calvin Jordan,the site supervisor for the Depot who is employed by VeoliaTransportation, about what she had seen on the surveillance video. Thehuman relations investigator characterized Jordan as untruthful and “lacking in credibility.”

Ona recent weekday evening, a handful of drivers milled around at Slip13. They were taking a break before leaving on the outbound half oftheir routes at 10:30, which would be the penultimate run of the night.It was the same slip at which Russell Kilfoil had fallen to thepavement under the force of Byron Wayne Meadows’ arm. The sign bore adecal with a lighted cigarette circled and crossed through to indicatethat smoking was prohibited. But some of the drivers weresmoking, which appeared to raise no concern among the trio of securityguards patrolling the grounds. A few of the drivers nodded with a lookof vague recognition when the incident involving Kilfoil was mentioned,but none acknowledged witnessing it. One driver said she was notallowed to speak to the media. By the time Meadows was pulledoff duty at city facilities, the criminal case against Meadows based onthe complaint brought by Hiram Gardner was already underway. “WhenI came to realize in the courtroom that the District Attorney and thestate wasn’t going to do anything on my behalf, I decided to do it onmy own, to subpoena witnesses and surveillance tape, because thesurveillance tape will tell the whole story,” Gardner said. “Why thestate hasn’t done that I don’t know. That they haven’t subpoenaed thesurveillance tape is proof of negligence and obstruction.” Gardnerwent down to the clerk of criminal court office in the basement of theGuilford County Courthouse on Nov. 24 and filed two subpoenas. Thefirst was issued to the Greensboro Transit Authority, whoseheadquarters is located about three blocks from the Depot, requestingsurveillance video from the night Gardner was allegedly assaulted. Theaddress and phone number were correctly listed. The second wasissued to Robert David Watlington, a friend with whom Gardner wasspeaking on his cell phone at the time of the alleged attack.Watlington was reached by a reporter at the phone number listed on thesubpoena, and Gardner talks to him frequently. Gardner said thatWatlington’s family has lived at the address listed on the subpoena for30 years, and his friend moved back to the house about four months ago.A third subpoena was filed by the prosecution for Gardner himself thatincluded his correct address. All three subpoenas were returned by the Greensboro Police Department warrant squad bearing the stamp “unable to serve.” GreensboroTransit Authority Director Libby James said she knew nothing of thesubpoena for the surveillance video and did not receive it. In anycase, Speedling said the video is kept for only 30 to 90 days,depending on which technology is used, and the recordings would havebeen destroyed in early August or early October. “When we getthe subpoena, we usually send the person a letter in the mail,” Sgt.Davis said. “The person is requested to call in. If they do not callin, it would be sent back to the court.” A fourth subpoena wassuccessfully served. Brian Tomlin, a lawyer in private practice, issueda subpoena to Omar Mahoney, Meadows’ fellow security guard at theDepot. The document indicates that a Greensboro police officer servedit by telephone. Gardner showed up in court on Nov. 25, and hesaid he was concerned that Meadows’ trial would proceed before thesubpoenas could be served, so he made a point to discuss the matterwith the assistant district attorney handling the case. “I came intothe courtroom and sat on the first two benches reserved for victims andwitnesses,” Gardner said. “A few minutes later, Mr. Meadows appearedfrom the back hallway, where the bailiffs, police officers and lawyerstypically enter. He shook one of the ADA’s hands, a couple of thebailiff’s hands and some other court personnel. Right off the bat, thatjust seemed inappropriate, with him being on trial. I could see if hewas working in his normal capacity, but to me it just seemed like aclear-cut attempt to intimidate me. “It wasn’t too much longer afterthat, that an assistant ADA called my name to see if I was in thecourtroom,” he continued. “As I began to tell the ADA I had subpoenasthat had not been served, he shushed me.” Assistant District AttorneyTom Carruthers, who was assigned to try the case based on Gardner’scomplaint, said it’s typical for the District Attorney to try cases indistrict court that were brought by citizens without thoroughlyreviewing the evidence. “When you have charges based oncitizen complaints, district court DAs do not have the resources andtime to look down the road toward trail,” he said. “We’re constantlylooking at whether we have the evidence…. You [review the evidence]the day the trial.” Carruthers added, “It is atypical for adefendant to enter the side door. That’s because he is a securityguard, and has access.” The District Attorney is scheduled totry defendant Bryan Wayne Meadows on Jan. 29 on charges of assault witha deadly weapon and injury to personal property. The DistrictAttorney dismissed the simple assault charge against Meadows that wasbased on Hiram Gardner’s complaint in open court on Tuesday. Before thetrial, Meadows entered the courtroom in uniform through the side door,and Carruthers called Gardner, Watlington and Chris Brook, a lawyerwith the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham into thehallway. Carruthers told them the defense would likely try to undermineGardner’s credibility by disclosing the existence of two unservedwarrants for assault. At noon, Carruthers called Gardner forward as Meadows took a seat in the defense chair. Gardner was nowhere to be found. “Iwas trying to help him because I didn’t want him to feel ambushed whenit came out that he had a couple of warrants out,” Carruthers toldBrook. “That’s the reason I told him back there.” “I think hejust got spooked,” Brook replied. Carruthers got the judge, a visitingjurist from Randolph County, to agree to postpone the trial until 2p.m. When court resumed, Gardner had still not been located. Carruthersdismissed the charge.

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com.

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