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Police arrest second suspect in Hidden Valley shooting

By Joe Marusak Ann Doss Helms and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
jmarusak@charlotteobserver.com

Police, acting on tips from citizens, have arrested the second suspect in a botched robbery during an undercover drug deal Tuesday in the Hidden Valley Elementary School parking lot.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said they found Davion Drayton, 17, at “an associate’s” home in the Hidden Valley community late Wednesday afternoon. They arrested Drayton without incident. Police had earlier warned the public that Drayton was considered armed and dangerous.

Drayton was taken to police headquarters to be interviewed by homicide detectives.

Drayton had an outstanding warrant for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill related to the incident Tuesday in which another suspect, Jaques Baltimore Walker, 17, was shot in the head. Walker was pronounced dead at about 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Both teens were enrolled in alternative schools for troubled students, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials said Wednesday.

Walker was in Right Choices, a six-week program that the CMS web site describes as “a more structured setting ... for aggressive students.” CMS records list a slightly different spelling of his name, Jaquaz Altimore Walker.

Drayton was at Turning Point Academy, a school for students with severe disciplinary problems.

Police were conducting an undercover drug buy outside the school to build a case against gang members. The suspects tried to turn the deal into a robbery, police said, and gunshots were exchanged.

Police have faced criticism from neighborhood leaders over the location of the undercover drug deal.

The shooting broke out after an undercover police officer and a confidential informant bought drugs from two suspects – part of what Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe called a larger operation in the neighborhood where Interstate 85 meets Sugar Creek Road.

The confidential informant’s injury to his rear shoulder was not life-threatening, and he was being treated at Carolinas Medical Center.

Leaders in the Hidden Valley neighborhood, as they learned the facts surrounding Tuesday’s shootout, questioned why officers would conduct a drug operation in the parking lot of a school where parents, teachers, administrators and students were registering for summer programs.

“That scares me,” said Ella Williams, vice president of the Hidden Valley Neighborhood Association. “Why would they pick that spot to do a drug deal? … I just wonder if they could have chosen a better spot.”

But CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison offered no criticism Wednesday, saying he had talked to Monroe about “why it happened where it happened.” He said he appreciates that police were trying to deal with drug use and crime in the neighborhood.

“They were trying to keep a neighborhood safe,” Morrison said. “When our neighborhoods are safe our kids are safe. I have a lot of confidence in Chief Monroe.”

Monroe emphasized that no one inside the building was injured and said officers took precautions to protect the public.

“In working these undercover operations, you kind of flow,” he said. “The location was determined by the individuals setting up the drug deal. We believe we had ample protection for those inside the school as well as those within the area.”

Duane Rizzo of Mooresville, an expert in police practices, said Wednesday it’s common for undercover officers to allow suspects to dictate where drug buys will happen. A drug dealer will grow suspicious if the buyer objects to the location, he said.

“If it’s an obviously dangerous place for the public -- 20 people walking down the street or a playground full of children-- (law enforcement) would probably nix the whole thing,” said Rizzo, who instructs law enforcement supervisors at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury.

On Tuesday, the large police presence following the shooting was a disheartening sight to members of the Hidden Valley community. For decades, they’ve suffered from violent drug crime connected to a homegrown gang with a stranglehold on the northern Charlotte neighborhood.

In 2007, authorities arrested a sizable chunk of the Hidden Valley King’s leadership, dealing a nearly fatal blow to the gang. Since then, the community has rebounded, although neighbors still worry about a concentration of crime on the Sugar Creek Road and Interstate 85 corridors.

Monroe declined to comment about the current case and wouldn’t say whether it involved the Kings.

Williams, the neighborhood leader, said statistics show Hidden Valley’s crime has decreased.

“I’m blown away by this,” she said, looking at the flashing police lights and crime scene tape. “We’ve made such great strides.”

The series of events began when the undercover police officer and the informant arrived at the parking lot to buy drugs from two men, as part of the ongoing undercover operation to combat gang activity. Several other officers were stationed nearby, observing the transaction.

Monroe said the officer and informant had completed the purchase and were walking back to their car when the two suspects apparently tried to rob them and began firing.

The undercover officer and an officer stationed near the drug deal returned fire at the two men, Monroe said. One suspect was shot in the head and rushed to the hospital.

Monroe said the two officers who fired weapons were Franchot Pack and Jonathan Lecompce, gang unit officers with the department for six years.

After the shootout, the suspect now identified as Drayton drove off. Shortly after the shooting, police radio reports indicated authorities were looking for a black sedan.

Video from WCNC-TV’s helicopter showed a white Nissan Maxima with all four doors open in the parking lot of the school.

A gun lay beside one of the open doors, a few yards away from a street sign for Friendly Lane.

Staff Writer Steve Lyttle contributed.
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