Council shocked by allegations of hate crime at a Greensboro diner
At the Feb. 4 town hall meeting of the Greensboro City Council, the mayor and several representatives expressed dismay at what public speaker Fields Ketteman described as a violent and homophobic hate crime.
Ketteman’s account and the council’s reaction can be seen at 1:32:50 of the online video at the City of Greensboro website. In the video, Ketteman says that he, his boyfriend, and several friends were at Best Diner on 5339 W. Market St. shortly after midnight on Jan. 3, 2020, when “a group of five guys came in and attacked us.”
“They called us names, started throwing tables and chairs at us and then attacked. I was injured trying to get to my boyfriend, who was being kicked and stomped. One of our friends tackled the three gentlemen off of my boyfriend and they pulled a knife on him. Shortly after that time, they made threats they were going to kill everybody inside the diner.”
That, Ketteman alleges, was when the police arrived. “When they pulled up, those guys were still making death threats at us.” He says in the video that only two of the attackers were arrested at the scene, “one for being drunk in public, the other for public affray.” The others, he alleges, “were set free, and they came back shortly after shot up the place with innocent civilians inside.”
Ketteman says in the video that by not charging any of the alleged attackers with a hate crime, or even with assault, and by not arresting all of them at the scene, the responding officers “put everyone in the diner in danger and failed me as a citizen of the United States of America and as a resident of Greensboro.”
City council Representative At-Large Michelle Kennedy appeared moved by this testimony.
“I don’t know anybody in my direct life who, through the course of coming out, hasn’t had somebody do something fairly horrible to them,” Kennedy says, “so this is something that is personal. I would just like to get a break down on what happened, and then I’ll be happy to touch base with you and have a further conversation.”
Trey Davis, Assistant City Manager for Public Safety, told Kennedy that he would give the council an update on the incident at the Feb. 18 meeting. “I can tell you that there’s two simultaneous investigations. The complaint was received to professional standards regarding the officers’ actions or inactions based upon what was complained about. I’ll follow up with you on that.”
District 1’s Sharon Hightower asks if the Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission was looking into the matter.
“I think there hasn’t been anything specifically brought to them,” Kennedy says. “This may be very well something that becomes a conversation for them, but it hasn’t up to this point.”
In the video, Hightower asks Davis if the matter was being investigated by the Police Community Review Board, which is tasked with reviewing and assessing the findings of the GPD’s Professional Standards Division.
“Or is it only with Professional Standards at this point?”
“It is,” Davis says. “They could have gone to the PCRB, but it still would have had to through the proper channels as far as an administrative investigation.”
Hightower asks Davis if complaints such as this are routinely directed to the PCRB in cases where the complainant is dissatisfied with the findings of the Professional Standards Division. Davis replies that complainants are given “a formatted letter advising a citizen of the disposition of that complaint [with] information for the complaint review committee on the bottom of it.”
In the video, Kennedy calls Ketteman back to the podium.
“They did not tell me about that whatsoever,” Ketteman said. “Nor did they tell me how I could get copies of the body cam footage, the Best Diner security footage, none of that. They gave me none of the information that I requested.”
In the video, Ketteman tells the council, “an LGBT oversight committee, who looks into hate crimes that happen against members of the gay community, would be the best thing to assist in matters like this. The officers who responded should be held responsible for their actions.”
“I just want to say I’m sorry that happened to you,” says Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson. “Nobody deserves that.”
“We’re all sorry it happened, very sorry,” Hightower says, turning to Davis. “Trey, have you connected with this young man, and do you have his info?”
“Yes,” Davis says.
After the meeting, Kennedy told YES! Weekly that Ketteman “essentially described a hate crime at Best Diner, which was followed by the same perpetrators coming back and firing shots in the diner. He expressed concerns regarding communication and handling of the situation by GPD. I’ve been in touch with him since and will work to ensure that the situation is investigated thoroughly and that he has the information he needs to file a complaint.”
Mayor Nancy Vaughn told YES! Weekly that she was putting Ketteman in touch with Jennifer Ruppe, the current executive director of the Guilford Green Foundation, a 501(c)(3) foundation that opened the city’s first LGBTQ center in 2018 on Bessemer Avenue, which moved to South Greene Street in downtown Greensboro earlier this year.
“I told him I would make the connection and that maybe he could find a support network through them,” Mayor Vaughan, who is also the GGF’s former director.
On Wednesday, GPD Public Information Officer Ronald Glenn sent the following information regarding the incident to YES! Weekly:
“Police responded to Best Diner located at 5339 W. Market Street on 1/3/2020 at 2:53 a.m. There was a disorder between two groups of patrons. Police charged five people in the incident and both groups left the location. About two hours after the initial call there was a second call at the location at 4:41 a.m. for a discharge of firearm call. There were multiple shots fired at the location. No one was injured, but there was damage to the location’s window. The charges for the five people charged that evening are Harviere Anton Tarpley, b/m 32, was charged with Affray, Dequaveon Bridgers, b/m 20, was charged with conspiracy, Lexus Lyna Fewell, b/f 21, was charged with conspiracy, Rysyrus Maurice Whitehurst, b/m 18, was charged with conspiracy and Ridge Keith Milton, b/m 31, was charged with Intoxicated and Disruptive. We currently have investigators from our Criminal Investigations Division following up on this investigation.”
Although Glenn described the police arriving at the diner at 2:53 a.m. and stated that all five were “charged that evening,” North Carolina court records seem to indicate that only two were arrested at that time and place.
Those records show Tarpley and Milton’s offenses as having occurred at 2:03 a.m. and 3:42 a.m., respectively, with both men arrested Jan. 3. But the records list the time of Fewell, Bridgers and Whitehurst’s offenses as 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 3, with Fewell arrested on Jan. 6 and Bridgers’ and Whitehurst arrested on Jan. 8.
When interviewed by YES! Weekly on Feb. 6, Ketteman gave a more detailed account of the events leading up to the alleged attack.
“Me and my friends left Chemistry Night Club and went to Best Diner, where we were sitting there waiting on our food when we heard a banging on the outside glass, and then this guy came in, passed us, then turned out and started yelling ‘Don’t you fucking faggots look at me!’ Then he began throwing stuff at us. We told him we hadn’t been looking at him, but he kept yelling and threatening and throwing stuff. Then his buddies came in, and all Hell broke loose.”
Ketteman repeated his statement that only two of the attackers were arrested at the scene.
“The others weren’t even searched, nor was their car. The other guys, the ones that hadn’t been arrested, came back thinking we were still there and shot up the restaurant.”
He claimed that several witnesses and restaurant staff members told the officers, “the guys who attacked us should be charged with a hate crime,” but the officers allegedly “ignored that we were attacked because we are gay.”
He also alleged that no police report was written at the scene.
“One officer just took down my name and my number, and they never followed up with me about the incident. I had to contact the Greensboro Police Department. I called and spoke to Sgt. Stein and asked about the police report I had requested. He said, ‘Oh, we’re still working on that, we’ve got to fix a few things.’ I think that’s odd because they didn’t even write a report at the scene. I think those officers were just as much in the wrong as the guys who attacked us.”