‘Rally against all violence’: Mecklenburg sheriff speaks out on teen’s killing

Earlier this month, someone fired shots into a northwest Charlotte home and killed 16-year-old Jayvon Goolsby as he slept.

Speaking Monday night at beSocial, a community space inside the Plaza Midwood store Social Status, Mecklenburg Sheriff Garry McFadden asked why people haven’t taken to the streets to protest Goolsby’s killing.

“I think we should rally against all violence,” he told the crowded room. “You can’t just rally when law enforcement takes the life of a citizen, because you’re showing them that’s the only time it matters.”

McFadden faced some skepticism as he encouraged people to work within existing systems. File complaints if a police officer treats you badly, he said.

“Every time you complain on an officer, it’s not gonna get him fired,” he said. “But complain (anyway).”

Over time, the documented issues might make a difference, he said.

He urged people to take responsibility and try to de-escalate conflict on their own to avoid future violence.

McFadden, a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police homicide detective, said he’s seen cases where everyone knew about a fight and hyped it up instead of trying to keep everyone safe, with tragic results.

“Don’t be a hype man ... then you’re crying at the funeral,” he said.

Police shootings

McFadden spent some time discussing police shootings, though he dodged a question about the recent CMPD shooting of Danquirs Franklin, which is still being reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office. Franklin is one of two people killed by CMPD in 2019.

Community members should stay cool and gather evidence if they’re concerned about a police shooting, he said.

“We get emotionally involved and we run with it, and as soon as you run with it, they got you,” he said. Focusing on facts is a better way to change the outcome, he said.

He cited Keith Lamont Scott, who was killed by CMPD in 2016 in an incident that led to days of protests and a National Guard mobilization, as an example.

Some people said Scott was holding a book when he was killed. Investigators said he had a gun.

“A book? No, it’s a gun. Say it’s a gun. It’s all right,” McFadden said.

McFadden said he rejects the anti-snitching culture and said witnesses can make a difference when they cooperate with police and tell the truth.

Community-police relations

McFadden said he spent his early career as a police officer on Charlotte’s west side, and he misses the tight community of older neighborhoods. Everybody knew him and he knew everybody, he said, which changed the way law enforcement worked.

“I think we benefit from growing up in neighborhoods like that,” he said. “You had people to take care of you every day.”

As communities spread out around the city, that kind of closeness is less likely, he said. But he urged the crowd at Social Status — which was mostly young and nearly all black — to try to build connections with police anyway.

“Talk to a police officer when you see him,” he said. “First conversation, he’s nervous, you’re nervous, (but) keep doing it.”

McFadden also talked about what to do if you’re stopped by a police officer. People may not like to hear it, he said, but it’s worth the time to narrate each action — like reaching for a driver’s license — to keep the situation as calm as possible.

287(g) and immigration

McFadden was interviewed by Jeff Lockhart of The Clean Slate USA for the first hour of the event. Responding to a question from Lockhart, he briefly addressed immigration policy at the county jail.

McFadden ended 287(g), a controversial policy under which some Mecklenburg sheriff’s deputies performed immigration enforcement, on his first day in office.

Conflict between his office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has persisted ever since, and McFadden expects it to continue.

“We’re going to be fightin’ for a while, I think,” he said.

McFadden also highlighted new initiatives at the jail, including a barber school and outdoor recreation for young inmates and a job fair for adult inmates. He’s working on a program that will let incarcerated parents spend time with their kids in a daycare-style setting, he said.

Jane Wester is a Charlotte native and has been covering criminal justice and public safety for The Charlotte Observer since May 2017.