WILMINGTON, N.C. — A North Carolina sheriff’s deputy has been fired and is facing criminal charges after he led an angry white mob searching for a missing girl to a black teen’s home, where they tried to force their way inside, authorities said.
Former New Hanover Deputy Jordan Kita was in uniform and armed at the time of the May 3 incident, according to the Wilmington Star News. Pender County District Attorney Ben David said Friday that Kita is being charged with forcible trespass, breaking and entering and willful failure to discharge duties.
A second man, Robert Austin Wood, is being charged with going armed to the terror of the public, the Star News reported.
Kita worked as a deputy at the New Hanover County Detention Center.
“Upon hearing of the incident involving Jordan Kita, I immediately began an internal affairs investigation,” New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon said in the statement Friday. “Today after speaking with the District Attorney and [Pender County] Sheriff [Alan] Cutler, Jordan Kita has been terminated from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.”
The Associated Press reported that Kita led the group, which was searching for a 15-year-old girl who had been reported missing, to the home of Dameon Shepard, a senior at Laney High School in Wilmington.
The men tried unsuccessfully to force their way inside, the AP reported.
James Lea, an attorney representing Shepard and his family, wrote in a letter obtained by WECT in Wilmington that the men were looking for a person named Josiah who lived next door to the Shepards but moved out of the neighborhood about a month before the incident. They went to the Shepard home, where the teen was awake and playing video games.
The men demanded information about the girl’s whereabouts and wanted to speak to Josiah.
Shepard identified himself by name multiple times -- and pointed out a sign in his front yard bearing his name and celebrating his pending graduation from high school -- but the men continued to demand answers to their questions, Lea wrote.
One man was armed with a shotgun and another had an assault weapon, the attorney alleged.
Lea wrote that Shepard attempted to close the front door, but Kita stuck his foot in the doorway and demanded he be allowed inside, WECT reported.
Shepard’s mother, Monica Shepard, was awakened by the commotion. She told the news station she also tried to make the men leave, to no avail.
“He just said, ‘I’m going to step inside, close the door and talk to you guys.’ And I said, ‘No you’re not,’” Monica Shepard said of Kita. “He had his foot on the threshold of my door, holding the door open and he said it again. He said, ‘I’m going to step inside close the door and I’ll talk to you,’ when I said, ‘No you’re not.’”
The group eventually realized they were at the wrong home and began to break up. Around that same time, Pender County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, Lea said.
The attorney said the deputies took no names and conducted little, if any, investigation of what happened, WECT reported. The missing 15-year-old was later found safe.
When asked Friday why no arrests were made the night of the incident, Cutler told reporters the threat had already been defused and investigators decided to take additional time to conduct the probe into what happened.
“We took a little more time to make sure we made an informed decision,” Cutler said, according to the Star News.
Monica Shepard told WECT she was in shock following the confrontation at her front door.
“Coming to the door like that with a mob of people with guns, what do we expect?” she said. “What were their intentions? What if he was the person they were looking for, or what if I was not home? What would’ve happened?
“I don’t want to have that conversation. I don’t want him to be a statistic. It’s scary.”
Cox Media Group