Shooting doesn’t define CIAA tourney

The Observer editorial board

Tommie Dewalt (left), Hattie Dewalt and Dorothy Davis cheer during the CIAA tournament.
Tommie Dewalt (left), Hattie Dewalt and Dorothy Davis cheer during the CIAA tournament. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

The shooting in uptown Charlotte during this past weekend’s CIAA Tournament has some residents concerned.

That’s understandable. When someone takes an AK-47 and sprays 40-50 bullets into cars and a hotel in the middle of uptown, we’d all better pay attention. Thankfully, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police quickly made arrests, and now the criminal justice system will decide the suspects’ fates.

Legitimate concern need not mushroom into panic. One incident, alarming though it is, should not prompt the city of Charlotte to back away from the mutually beneficial relationship it has enjoyed with the historically black conference these past 11 years. In the wake of the shooting, some locals are suggesting exactly that.

One resident of a condo tower at the shooting scene told WBTV news that the CIAA tournament “needs to be reviewed (to) see if this is the kind of thing we want in Charlotte.”

Well, we certainly don’t want assault rifles strafing our streets. But we do want the CIAA. We can, and mostly do, get the latter without being overrun by the former.

With the basketball games drawing 99,000 spectators, choked streets and restaurants are far more likely problems than flying bullets. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, for its troubles, reaps $2.1 million in county tax collections, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Mecklenburg commissioner Bill James expressed concern on Facebook about the “violence/wild parties over the years” that have occurred during the CIAA weekend. But with police out in force via the “extraordinary event” designation, you’d think out-of-control parties potentially involving tens of thousands of people might draw more than the 12 arrests police logged during the weekend.

If you walk around uptown during CIAA weekend, you typically see middle-aged and older visitors, the alumni of the 12 universities playing in the basketball tournament.

“The response I got from people is that they felt safe, they enjoyed the experience,” City Council member Al Austin, a fundraiser for Johnson C. Smith University, told the editorial board Monday. Out of the thousands who came to town, he added, “we had three people – three people – who decided to do something stupid.”

Still, the shooting was especially alarming given the weaponry involved. If convicted, the suspects should get the stiffest punishments available.

The incident likely will not prompt the city to reconsider hosting the tournament, nor should it. However, with the NBA All-Star game coming in 2017 and city elders dreaming of hosting the Super Bowl, it reminds us all that security protocols must be constantly refined and updated as Charlotte moves to claim a bigger slice of the national spotlight.