Crime & Courts

Chair of Charlotte police review board charged with sexually assaulting two young victims

The chairperson of Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board, Henry Black Jr., has been charged with sexually assaulting two victims over a 22-year period, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said Thursday.

The city’s review board hears appeals by citizens on CMPD disciplinary decisions after misconduct allegations against police officers. Black was appointed to the board in 2014, police said.

Black, 49, was arrested Thursday morning in Myrtle Beach, S.C., police said. He was charged with four counts of incest, 14 counts of indecent liberties with children, two counts of statutory rape, three counts of statutory sex offense and two counts of child abuse/ sexual act.

CMPD Deputy Chief Gerald Smith told reporters that abuse began when the victims were “very young” and continued despite their repeatedly reporting it to other adults before eventually contacting police.

“The survivors, their description of what was taking place was clear,” Smith said. “It was clear that they were being abused. There was nothing that could have been misunderstood, it could not have been a miscommunication. They were clear about what was happening to them for 22 years.”

Failing to report such crimes is illegal. Police detectives are now looking for people who were told of the assaults but did nothing, Smith said.

The investigation continues in other directions, Smith said, including whether others were assaulted. He urged other victims to called a detective on the case, whose last name is O’Dell, at 704-336-4466. Anonymous tips can be sent to Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

Police said one victim, who is now an adult, reported on Sept. 3 that she was sexually assaulted and she named Black as her assailant. As police investigated, they identified a second victim, also now an adult, who also said Black had sexually assaulted her.

The attacks began when the victims were children and continued between 1996 and 2018, police said.

“I consider it superhuman what they’ve done,” Smith said of the victims in the case. “Our detectives have a great deal of experience — especially our crimes against children detectives, they see a lot. And in this case, the details gave them pause.”

Public records identify Black as cofounder and an employee of Genesis Project Family Wellness Center in Charlotte, whose website says the center offers counseling, meetings and events “for the psychological, emotional and developmental support of families.”

People nominated to the Citizens Review Board undergo criminal background checks, the board’s website says. The Observer’s review of public records found Black has had no prior criminal convictions in North Carolina.

A city spokeswoman confirmed that nothing from Black’s background check disqualified him from serving on the board. But a city ordinance says that members of the board who are charged with a felony, as Black was, are to be automatically suspended until the charge is resolved.

WBTV, The Observer’s news partner, reported that Black has been suspended from the board and Vice Chairperson Tonya Jameson will assume his responsibilities.

The Genesis Project website, which also refers to Black him as “JR Black,” says in an undated biographical summary that Black also served for six years on Charlotte’s Community Relations Committee and its police subcommittee. Black is UNC Charlotte graduate with a degree in criminal justice with a focus on juvenile delinquency, crime deterrents and social capital, it says.

A Genesis Project official told reporters Thursday afternoon that Black had not been associated with the group since about 2008.

According to the Horry County Sheriff’s Office website in South Carolina, Black was arrested early Thursday morning and is being held without bail. CMPD says Charlotte authorities are awaiting his extradition.

Staff writer Anna Douglas contributed.