Saturday, June 25, 2022

Vigilante mob or search party? Family involved in Pender County incident breaks their silence

In the Video: From left to right, attorney James Rutherford, Timothy Kita, Mary Kita, and Jordan Kita at their family home.

PENDER COUNTY — It’s been one week since the story broke, alleging an all-white vigilante group had terrorized a black family in Pender County; now, the family involved in the group has broken their silence. The family refutes the prevailing narrative that the ‘mob’ had racist intentions — noting, among other things, that their family is mixed-race — and claims at the time of the incident they were actively coordinating with local authorities.

Related: ‘Vigilante group’ including New Hanover deputy allegedly threatens Laney High senior in case of mistaken identity

The Kita family, including New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office detention officer Jordan Kita, claims that they had searched multiple neighborhoods while looking for a missing family member. However, questions remain about how and why this search party became armed — and nothing so far has countered that they broke the law by forcing their way into a Rocky Point residence without any legal justification.

At the same time, the group claims it had been sanctioned by law enforcement, although it is not clear if authorities knew the group was armed. According to the family, the Pender County Sheriff’s Office had coordinated with the search party and launched a helicopter to help aid in the search.

Missing family member

According to allegations, the group showed up at a home in Avendale, a neighborhood in Pender County, sometime around 10 p.m. They were searching for a missing girl — who was related to Kita and others in the group — and were given the address of a black teenage boy named Josiah who might have known her location.

They had the wrong home.

This much is agreed upon by everyone involved. What differs in opinion is the intent and allegations that the group was working extrajudicially and in a racist manner.

Instead of the person they were looking for, they arrived at the home of Dameon Shepard and his mother Monica. When Dameon Shepard opened the door, 23-year-old Jordan Kita, wearing a New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHCSO) uniform, his father, and a group of other people involved in the search stood at his door. (According to Kita’s family, at least one other man in the group was armed.)

So, what happened?

On May 3, Jordan Kita said he received a phone call from his mother saying that his sister was missing. Kita left work at the county detention center to help in the search. He never had time to change out of his uniform, according to his family.

But Kita’s family and their attorney said the narrative that has been told so far has been misguided.

Local and national media has told the story of an all-white, armed, vigilante group who showed up on the porch of a young black male, Dameon Shepard, and his family’s home demanding answers as to the whereabouts of a missing girl.

The attorney for Shepard and his family, Jim Lea, claim the armed group racially profiled and discriminated against Shepard.

“I don’t think in my 40 years of living here in New Hanover County I’ve ever seen anything like this. We are so lucky that nobody got shot or killed. To arrive on somebody’s doorstep in 2020, with a gang of people, guns — I don’t know what a police officer was doing out here … It’s just such a bad case of racial profiling and discrimination, along with just outrageous behavior. And we can’t tolerate it in 2020, or in any time,” Lea wrote.

Kita’s family claims that wasn’t the case.

Shepard, who is 18 years old, answered the door and tried to explain to the strangers on his doorstep that he was not Josiah.

When Shepard was unable to give the group the answers they were looking for, and couldn’t convince them who he was, he said Kita stuck his foot inside of the door, refused to let him shut it, and demanded entry into the home.

That’s when Shepard’s mother got involved.

Monica Shepard was asleep at the time of the incident but was awoken by the commotion. When she came to the door she tried to get control of the situation, and both mother and son tried to explain to the individuals on their porch that they had the wrong home and that Josiah didn’t live there.

While many of the events of that night did happen according to all parties, there have been some inaccuracies according to the family and Kita’s attorney James Rutherford.

Since Jordan Kita is the sole member of the family facing charges, his attorney advised him not to make comments to the media at this time — but his family, who was involved in the efforts, had plenty to say.

The family searched multiple neighborhoods looking for their missing daughter and sister before reaching the Shepards’ home. According to Timothy Kita, the father of Jordan, the Pender County Sheriff’s Office even launched a helicopter to search for the missing girl.

The Pender County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) was unable to offer more information on the situation.

“As stated earlier during the press conference, this is an ongoing investigation. I cannot comment on ongoing investigations,” Captian James Rowell of the PCSO said. “Information related to the case will be released when the case is heard in court.”

Attorney: ‘Racism has no place in our society’

The following statement was provided by Rutherford regarding the actions taken the night of May 3. It has not been edited and is included in its entirety.

Racism has no place in any society.

This Story is NOT about Racism.

This story is about a family searching for a troubled teenager, whom they love very much and was in immediate danger on the evening of May 3rd.   The family set in search of her and time was against them.  

Race should have no part in this story, and it is disgusting that it does. It is difficult for Jordan and his family to reconcile why they have been placed into this national narrative when the teen the family has had guardianship over for more than 10 years, is biracial. It is even more difficult to reconcile when considering the fact that this is not the only biracial child in the home. The Kita’s have fought and spent countless time, emotional and economic equity to have a racially diverse family.  This is a loving blended family. Statements made by Mr. Lea are wrong, slanderous, and disgusting.  This narrative must stop today. 

Jordan considers the teen to be his sister, she has lived with his family for more than ten years. He loves her very much, just as he loves all his siblings, biological or otherwise. When his mother called him frantically on the night of May 3rd, Jordan was working at the New Hanover County Detention Facility. His shift did not end for several more hours. Understanding the emergent circumstances, he left work and rushed to help find the sister he loves so much.

He did not lead any mob as has been reported.  He was not a leader of anything this evening. He was a brother searching for his sister.

The search party, consisting of children, teenagers and adults, was a disorganized hodgepodge of people receiving rapidly changing information through social media, text and phone calls. Many doors were knocked upon that evening on multiple streets. Upon hearing the plight, several people joined to help search for the missing teen.  

Hours into the search a tip was received from a youngster that this missing teen was seen with Josiah. Eventually another youngster gave an address. This address was broadcasted via phone calls and text.  At this point the hodgepodge of individuals and small groups that were independently searching for this missing teen came to what later is known as the Shepard’s address.  It is true the name given is Josiah. However, at no time did anyone mistake Dameon for Josiah. There was zero description of Josiah. This house was not chosen because of a mistaken identity this house was chosen because of an erroneous address. At no time did anyone ask nor know the color of Josiah’s skin. The individuals were only told that Josiah was with the missing teen and he lived at this address.  

This case is nothing more than a colossal misunderstanding.

There was no criminal intent in any of Jordan’s actions let alone a racist element behind it. 

It is not lost on Jordan and his family how the Shepard’s must feel.  Instead of fighting in the court of public opinion this family wishes to do what they have always done, and that is to put race aside and do what is right. They would love nothing more than to sit down with the Shepard family and express how sorry they are that they were a part of leaving them feeling as they felt.  

Instead of continuing the narrative that this is a racist occurrence, let’s have the parties come together and talk.  Let us be a model for not only Pender County but the Nation.  Let us say no to the divisive politics of racism and yes to the unification of humanity.

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