Investigators said an argument led to the June killing of Bias Easley.
Tuesday, it spilled over into a Mecklenburg County courtroom when a brawl among families broke out, minutes before the man accused of killing the corrections officer was to appear before a judge.
Authorities say Joseph Easley, the brother of the victim, started the fight.
His target: Trevor White, the brother of homicide suspect Raphael White. Trevor White has also been charged in connection with Easley’s death.
A sheriff’s spokeswoman said Joseph Easley was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct. Trevor White, whom deputies say did not fight back when he was attacked, was not charged but was asked to leave the courthouse.
Bias Easley, 27, who worked at Lanesboro Correctional Institute in Wadesboro, was found shot to death June 5 near his apartment at the intersection of Interstate 77 and Nations Ford Road. Police say his death stemmed from an argument in Charlotte with one of the White brothers.
Raphael White turned himself in on Sunday and was charged with first-degree murder. Trevor White is free on bond, charged with being an accessory after the fact to a felony.
Tuesday, Raphael White was to make his initial appearance before Mecklenburg Chief District Judge Regan Miller. As Assistant District Attorney Jessica Battle was calling roll for other defendants scheduled to appear, authorities say Joseph Easley spotted Trevor White sitting nearby.
Moments later, the courtroom erupted. Deputies boomed orders to stop, but the fight escalated. Dozens of people, including small children, scrambled for safety. One woman fell as she tried to exit.
Meanwhile, Joseph Easley and an unidentified man, who had joined the fight after Trevor White was struck, pulled and tore at each other before crashing to the ground near the prosecutor’s table.
Deputies – some already massed outside the courtroom, fearing trouble during Raphael White’s appearance – piled in. They slammed the fighters to the floor before pulling them apart. Trevor White walked up to the scrum before a deputy pushed him away. Row by row, the courtroom was emptied.
TV footage showed Trevor White leaving the courthouse with a man who appeared to be one of the fighters. The Easley family left and did not return. When the courtroom reopened 20 minutes later, at least 10 deputies were inside.
When Raphael White appeared for his hearing, the deputies stood and faced the audience from all sides of the room. There were no incidents as Miller briefed the defendant of his upcoming hearings. Raphael White remains jailed without bond.
Once court was back in session, Miller warned that further outbursts would result in criminal contempt of court charges and up to 30 days in jail.
“We require decorum in here,” the judge said. “Please be mindful of that as we move along.”