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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

UPDATE: PCU member arrested in connection to Houston Moore shooting no longer employed by county

Stephen Barnett (Courtesy NHCSO)

[Update: The Wilmington Police Department announced a second arrest in the Houston Moore shooting. A 17-year-old male was taken into custody Tuesday in connection with the shooting on March 21 and is being charged with attempted first-degree murder and felony possession of a firearm; he will be tried as an adult due to previous charges. According to WPD, Barnett drove the minor away from the scene, leading to him being charged as an accessory in the crime.]

WILMINGTON — New Hanover County’s employee roster does not include Stephen Barnett as of Tuesday, March 26, officials say.

Barnett served as supervisor for mediation and outreach at Port City United — a New Hanover County department that launched in April 2022 to curb violence. It uses a violence interrupter model, often hiring former gang members to intercede conflicts before it escalates into gunplay.

Barnett was put on administrative leave on Thursday after law enforcement connected him to a Houston Moore shooting that took place on March 21 at roughly 5:15 p.m. A county-owned vehicle had been confiscated during the investigation.

On Monday evening, March 25, Wilmington Police Department charged 37-year-old Barnett as an accessory after the fact to attempted murder. One person was injured in the shooting and was transported to Novant NHRMC.

The county ended employment with Barnett Tuesday morning and said it’s cooperating fully with law enforcement during the investigation.

The WPD stated in a press release that additional arrests are expected in the case.

Barnett is in the New Hanover County Detention Facility, under a $250,000 secured bond.

The former PCU employee was making almost $80,000 and had received three raises since being hired by the county with a start salary of $68,000; his raises in the last two years include:

  • 7/12/22:  Market adjustment — 9.2% ($74,256)
  • 6/27/23:  Pay study implementation — 1.5% ($75,370)
  • 7/11/23:  market adjustment — 5.6% ($79,591)

Barnett was in charge of ensuring daily operations run smoothly at PCU, overseeing equipment maintenance, directing staff in various divisions and helping with research needs.

The job description also noted Barnett:

  • Approves gang mediation strategies.
  • Reviews reports of conflicts and potential violence and referrals of clients to outreach specialists.
  • Attends community group meetings to provide information about programs and services related violence and violence prevention.

It’s not Barnett’s first run-in with law enforcement. He told WECT in 2017 he joined a gang at 15, the Bloods, and was incarcerated from 2005 to 2007. He took a plea to the voluntary manslaughter of George Murray, who was shot.

Upon being released from prison, Barnett told media he held many jobs, including at a moving company, but became employed at UnTappd — a mobile beer app — that, at the time, was owned by George Taylor. It eventually led to Barnett working at Taylor’s now-defunct TRU Colors Brewing Company, which hired active gang members from the Bloods, Crips and Gangster Disciples, with the goal to increase financial success, in attempt to bring down violence. The controversial brewery shuttered in 2022.

In addition to working for New Hanover County in the aftermath, Barnett told the Wilmington Business Journal at the beginning of 2024 he was launching Manly Moving Company with a former TRU Colors and PCU community outreach specialist, Anthony Brumm.

Barnett told the Biz he got the idea to create his own business after leaving jail and “seeing the breakdown of a contract and noticing how small a share he was getting for his work” as a mover.

A third-party moving company centered on contract work seemed to be marketable. The goal was to hire people for living wages that may not have had the opportunity for work upon exiting prison.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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