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Shooting, robbery follow quiet gameday for police

An early morning shooting and subsequent armed robbery kept police busy Sunday following what was otherwise a routine response to ECU gameday events, authorities said.

East Carolina University police reported on Monday that cameras on campus and downtown led them to an arrest in an armed robbery that occurred outside of Fletcher Residence Hall.

Cameras spotted a man later identified as Jamarcus Patterson, 28, walking from a vehicle he parked on Fifth Street toward the dorm about 5 a.m., said Capt. Chris Sutton.

A man pointed a handgun at a student outside the dorm and took her purse a short time later. Cameras then captured Patterson running back to the car and driving away. The student not injured.

Using the car’s license plate number, officers established probable cause and obtained a warrant for Patterson’s arrest, Sutton said.

The arrest was made at the Sterling Pointe Apartment complex in Greenville where Patterson lives. He surrendered without incident.

He was charged with two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon and was jailed without bond in the Pitt County Detention Center.

Patterson has a prior conviction in New Hanover County for armed robbery from June of 2015. He also was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to seriously injure in 2015.

Sutton said the last armed robbery incident to take place at ECU was on Dec. 12, 2019.

The Greenville Police Department on Monday reported an investigation into a shooting that wounded three people outside the Waffle House at 1930 S.E. Greenville Blvd. was ongoing.

The shooting occurred about 3:30 a.m. Sunday. Officers responding to a call of shots fired at the restaurant stopped a car leaving the scene. A woman in the car had been shot.

A short time later, a second vehicle showed up at Vidant Medical Center with two men who had been shot. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

An incident report said that the shooting damaged two vehicles. A Jeep Grand Cherokee had a round fired into its window and sustained $250 worth of damage. A second vehicle sustained damage estimated at $10,000.

The shooting appears to have been the result of an altercation between multiple parties. No arrests were reported by Monday night.

Public information officer Kristen Hunter said the shooting was not related to increased activity in town after East Carolina’s football game with South Carolina, which drew throngs of spectators.

Sutton said that there were minimal incidents of student misconduct and emergency calls reported during the game itself.

According to Sutton, 15 emergency medical calls were made during the game. Four students were ejected during the game itself, with those incidents being linked to alcohol use.

“With this being the first game of the year, I will take those statistics,” Sutton said. “I will say that our officers were diligent in their duty and would also credit the athletic department for their ability to work with students and the Student Pirate Club. It was also that first game that allowed anyone in since November of 2019, so you can see how people would be excited to see the game.”

The emergency response calls were linked to heat, Sutton said, something that can create a number of issues even in September.

Sutton contrasted the 15 calls with “several hundred” that were made during a 2012 home opener against Appalachian State University.

In the county, 12 arrests were made for driving while impaired on Saturday and Sunday. Sutton said that none of those arrests were made in the stadium area during the game.

Fifteen Greenville officers assisted with ECU’s gameday law enforcement and security as part of a citywide mutual aid agreement, Hunter said.

The game did not appear to affect the level of calls for police over the weekend, she said.

“Anytime there are more people in town, there are more opportunities for crimes to occur but I wouldn’t say we experienced an abnormal uptick in crime,” Hunter said.

Fairly early arrival: Rides herald county fair

If they didn’t know better, folks driving on Martin Luther King Jr. Highway might think the 101st Annual Pitt County American Legion Agricultural Fair has already started.

It’s coming soon, but it hasn’t started yet.

Powers Great American Midways, the outfit that provides the fair’s rides and amusements, arrived late last week after an event elsewhere was canceled, fair manager Ken Ross said, but the fair is still set for Sept. 21-26

Crews got an early start on setting up the 35 rides, some of which make a towering impression along the highway. Ross said the state Department of Labor is set to give the equipment a thorough inspection before the gates open next week.

The pandemic forced the cancelation of the fair in 2020. Organizers this year are requiring visitors to wear masks inside exhibit halls and other buildings. The Pitt County Health Department also will be providing vaccination shots throughout the event.

Organizers continue to accept entries for a variety of livestock, food, crafting competitions. Anyone with questions about exhibit entries is asked to contact Mary-Anne Brannon at 758-8754. Questions about livestock shows should be directed to Andy Burlingham at 902-1703. All other questions contact Ken or Phyllis Ross at 758-6916.

Fair books may be picked up at the fairgrounds, 3910 Martin Luther King Jr. Highway, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit pittfair.org.

Residents, guests escape fire caused by golf cart problem

A family and their houseguests escaped injury when a malfunctioning golf cart started a fire in the garage that also caused substantial damage to the house.

Firefighters responded to a two-story house on fire on Bremerton Drive in the Bedford neighborhood about 6:55 p.m. Saturday, Greenville-Fire Rescue reported.

Heavy smoke and fire were visible at the scene when the first units arrived. About 30 firefighters from Greenville and the Town of Winterville Fire Department controlled the fire in 45 minutes, a news release said.

It was determined that the fire began in the home’s garage, the release said, and was caused by an electrical issue with a golf cart. The fire was deemed accidental.

Jessica Blackwell, public information officer with the Greenville department, said that the garage sustained heavy damaged. Several vehicles were damaged as well.

The home sustained further damage from smoke, heat and water while crews worked to extinguish the fire, Blackwell said.

One firefighter was treated for very minor injuries on the scene, she said. The home will need repairs before it can be occupied again.

The home belongs to Hank and Meredith Hinton, who had friends over for the weekend to see the ECU football game. A neighbor discovered the fire and alerted authorities and everyone inside.

Hank’s father, Henry Hinton, thanked firefighters Monday morning during his morning radio show, Talk of the Town, on WTIB 103.7 FM.

“Let me say the Greenville Fire-Rescue folks were terrific,” Hinton said. “They probably saved the house from burning down completely. They had to tear down the ceilings of the upstairs bedroom of my grandchildren to contain the fire in the attic, which they did, and kept the fire from burning the house completely down.”

Hinton said the incident was heartbreaking but the family is holding up well.

City council approved rezoning request at 10th Street/Port Terminal Road

Greenville City Council unanimously approved a rezoning request along the East 10th Street corridor over the objections of a former councilman.

Marion Blackburn was the only person who spoke against the request to rezone 3.55 acres located near the northeastern corner of East 10th Street and Port Terminal Road from residential-agricultural and neighborhood commercial to general commercial.

Blackburn said the rezoning for that area isn’t in keeping with the city’s comprehensive land use plan.

The 10th street area wasn’t meant to be a commercial zone but a transition to rural areas, she said.

“It adds to the commercial creep that, like a disease, weakens and sickens our community,” Blackburn said. “Sprawl increases population, guts neighborhoods and leaves us, the people you represent, stuck in islands surrounded by alienating concrete and abandoned buildings.”

Blackburn said the area at Port Terminal Road was intended for residential use with some office space development and that there is ample commercial property east of the location.

Real Estate agent Jon Day, representing the property owners, said the zoning change would make the property an extension of nearby zoning. Existing structures on the land would be demolished because it isn’t the “highest and best” use of the property.

The council unanimously voted to approve the request with no discussion.

Other requests approved by the city council at its Thursday meeting included:

Annexation of 2.03 acres located at the northeastern corner of the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Highway and Diamond Drive.

  • Annexation of 4.1 acres located at the current terminus of Rhinestone Drive.
  • Annexation of 24.3 acres located between Dickinson Avenue and Greenville Boulevard and adjacent to Manning Forest Townhomes.
  • Annexation of 113.6 acres located along the northern right-of-way of N.C. 33 East and adjacent to Rolling Meadows Subdivision. Bill Clark Homes of Greenville wants to develop a subdivision currently called Cypress Pointe at the location. Much of the property is currently zoned under other jurisdictions, so the council also approved rezoning 107 acres as residential-single family medium density and 6.5 acres as general commercial.
  • Approved changes to the table of uses in city code to add “licensed contractor, general, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, etc. excluding outside storage” as a permitted use in heavy commercial, unoffensive industry, industry, planned unoffensive industry and planned industry zoning districts and add ambulance service” to medical-institutional, medical-support, medical-office, medical-general commercial and medical-heavy commercial. Council also approved a language change that now allows fast food restaurants within a medical office zoning district to be located in a building with no less than two units.
  • Approved entering into a trust agreement or installment financing agreement not to exceed $20 million financing public improvements, including construction of Fire Station No. 7, construction of a bay extension at Fire Station No. 1, improvements to the Eppes Recreation Center, construction of a new community pool at Thomas Foreman Park and construction and development of Wildwood Park Phase I and II.

The city council started its meeting with several special recognitions:

  • The Greenville Police Department Gang Unit was recognized for being named the 2020 Gang Unit of the Year by North Carolina Gang Investigators Association.

The organization recognized the unit for seizing more than $28,000 in cash, 69 guns, thousands of grams of drugs and making a total of 232 arrests between June 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020.

  • The Babe Ruth 13-year-old All-Star team was recognized for playing the league’s championship game.

“We have a tremendous amount of baseball talent in the community … You guys continue a great tradition in the community,” Mayor P.J. Connelly said. “You may not have won the championship this time but next year you guys are going to be the champions because Greenville is filled with nothing but champions.”

The council also approved the following actions during its consent agenda vote:

  • The sale of about .68-acre of property at 431 W. Fifth St., to the Alumni Corporation Board of Delta Sigma Phi at East Carolina University for $242,651.

In early 2021 the city received an initial offer of $148,000 to purchase the property. State law requires that an offer to purchase city-owned property be advertised in case someone wants to purchase it at a higher price.

In late July the alumni board offered $242,651 for the property and no other bids were submitted.

  • A $130,675 contract with DESIGNA Southern Time to install a gating system at the Fourth Street Parking Garage.

The system will provide the public with a parking access ticket when they enter the garage and require them to pay when they exit. Individuals and businesses that lease spaces in the garage, including patrons at a hotel being planned for Evans Street, will be issued key cards.

The gating system is one of the recommendations from discussions about changing the city’s parking fee structure that were held in 2019 and early 2020. The recommendations were placed on hold due to the effect COVID-19 had on the business community.

  • The purchase of a street sweeper and dump truck at a cost of $406,291.

Clinics to give students another shot at getting vaccines

Vaccination clinics beginning this week will give students another shot at getting required school immunizations ahead of next week’s state deadline.

Five drive-through clinics are scheduled at the Pitt County Health Department to offer immunization appointments for middle school and high school students at risk of being expelled from school without required vaccines. To remain in school, North Carolina law requires students to provide proof of immunization within 30 days of when they began the school year.

Required immunizations for students entering seventh and 12th grades include vaccines to prevent bacterial meningitis and to protect adolescents from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. COVID-19 vaccines are not a requirement for students in North Carolina’s public schools.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state delayed its immunization deadline for students in 2020, giving them until Dec. 30 to comply. Pitt County Schools Public Information Officer Jennifer Johnson said the district has not received word of a potential extension this year.

“We are hearing that other districts have requested,” she said. “We would hope that the state would consider some kind of extension.

“Currently we’re hearing that our doctors’ offices are really full with taking care of sick patients,” Johnson said. “We know it’s difficult for families to get in and get those appointments, especially those students new to kindergarten this year.”

Proof of more than half a dozen vaccinations, with multiple doses, along with a health assessment are required for students entering kindergarten. Kindergarten immunizations and health assessments are not available at the drive-through clinics, but the health department is offering other appointments for kindergartners.

Johnson said it is not clear how many Pitt County Schools students may be affected by the approaching state deadline.

“Because we are within the window of 30 days, we can’t assume (vaccination status),” she said. “They may have been vaccinated and they may just be waiting to turn in paperwork. Those numbers change on a daily basis.”

Johnson said that school nurses who work to ensure that schools have proof of vaccination for students are having to devote much of their time to COVID-19 cases, including contact tracing and contacting students who are quarantined.

In January, following two delays of the 2020 proof-of-vaccination deadlines, more than 400 of approximately 23,000 students in the district were not in compliance with the state immunization requirements. In addition, more than 200 kindergarten students did not have required health assessments on file. Most of the students who did not meet the 2020 deadline were enrolled as full-time virtual learners.

Johnson said students who do not meet this year’s immunization deadlines do not have the option to switch to virtual learning through Pitt County Virtual Academy. Unlike the 2020-21 school year, families are not permitted to move from in-person to virtual learning during the semester.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ N.C. Immunization Branch, both in-person and remote learning students not meeting the deadline to show proof of immunization will be excluded from school until complying with the requirements. Johnson said a medical absence would be recorded for students not allowed to attend due to missing vaccines.

“This just really shows how important it is for our parents to schedule regular visits with a family doctor or with any kind of health provider and to keep up with the vaccination schedules,” she said. “Most of this could be prevented if there are regular well checks. (But) we’re offering extra clinics for those who have waited or are having problems finding an appointment with their family doctor.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports that teens across the country have been missing getting their required vaccines since the beginning of the pandemic. Vaccine orders for the meningococcal conjugate and the Tdap vaccines were down 15 to 18 percent in May 2021 compared with 2019, the agency reported.

The CDC had earlier cautioned that there should be a minimum interval of 14 days between a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine. But that advice was reversed in May, with the CDC reporting that no interval was necessary and that COVID-19 vaccines could be administered the same day as other vaccines.

No COVID-19 vaccines will be offered as part of the health department’s drive-through clinic for middle school and high school students.

North Carolina requires children entering kindergarten to have vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenzae type B; Hepatitis B, varicella (chickenpox) and pneumococcal conjugate.

In addition, there is a vaccination requirement for meningococcal conjugate for students entering seventh grade. A requirement for second dose of that vaccine recently was added for high school seniors.

The state requirements apply to students enrolled in home schools, public, private or religious educational institutions, including child care facilities and K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities.

“It’s just important that people know that the state puts these guidelines in place,” Johnson said. “As a school system, we are simply following the law.”