Monday, June 24, 2024

Another Port City United employee arrested, fired in 2-month period

Courtney McNeil (Courtesy NHCSO)

WILMINGTON — A man arrested on multiple offenses Thursday has been terminated from his position with the county.

READ MORE: County spending $36K monthly on suspended PCU outreach division

ALSO: ‘Experiment reached the end of its term’: Commissioner wants PCU funds for schools

Courtney Antwain McNeil, 24, was apprehended on Thursday, May 9, and charged with 16 drug offenses and one firearm charge. All are felonies except for drug paraphernalia possession charges:

  • Five charges of possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Four charges of maintaining of vehicle or dwelling for contraband
  • Three charges of possession with intent to manufacture or sell cocaine
  • Three charges of manufacture of cocaine
  • One charge of possession of cocaine
  • One charge of possession of a firearm from a felon

Lt. Jerry Brewer of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office told Port City Daily McNeil has a cumulative $150,000 bond for the charges, but McNeil cannot bond out of the felony firearm offense.

He is the second Port City United county employee to be arrested since March. McNeil was a mediation specialist, who would go into communities to help de-escalate violence before it reached gun play. This is part of Port City United’s model, based on Chicago’s Cure Violence, which aims to prevent violence by using community-based public safety strategies. It includes hiring people involved in gang-adjacent situations to build trust within communities.

County manager Chris Coudriet suspended the outreach and mediation division of Port City United in March after another PCU employee, Stephen Barnett, was arrested for accessory to attempted murder in a shooting that happened at Houston Moore on March 21. Barnett — admittedly a former Bloods gang member who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter years ago — allegedly drove a 17-year-old charged with attempted first-degree murder away from the scene in a county van.

Coudriet ordered the mediation and outreach team’s 10 employees go on paid leave as the county conducted an internal review to decide whether the division would continue forward. The county has been paying roughly $36,000 a month for the employees’ administrative paid leave salaries.

McNeil was hired Nov. 11, 2022 at just more than $46,000; he was terminated on May 10, making roughly $49,800. The employee received two raises during his tenure, for pay study implementation and market adjustment.

As the county was reviewing the division’s protocols and practices, Coudriet sent an email to commissioners at the beginning of May agreeing to reinstate PCU’s outreach employees to work a one-off Mother’s Day event. PCU planned to honor 80 moms in the PCU department’s caseload with an event that included spoken word performance, a gift bag and fresh flowers to give mothers, a dinner and video tribute. 

“There are no duties around mediation and outreach or violence interruption,” Coudriet clarified in his email to commissioners. “All of said duties are in direct correlation with recognizing mothers, especially those affected by violence and loss of children.”

Employees were scheduled to work May 8 through the 11 to help with donation collections, gift-bag preparation and assembly, catering coordination, guest-list confirmation, final preparation, and day-of event administration.

McNeil was not arrested while working, the county confirmed. The county suspended the entire mediation and outreach team’s participation in the event as of Friday and the employees have been placed again on paid administrative leave.

According to New Hanover County, the internal review analysis will be shared with county commissioners in coming days. 

Once Barnett’s arrest was announced two months ago, some county commissioners called for defunding the “anti-violence department.” The county stated upon its founding — spurred after the August 2021 New Hanover High School shooting — it would pledge $39.6 million over four years. 

Dane Scalise told PCD in March, after Barnett’s arrest, he thought the “experiment reached the end of its term” and Port City United had not proven to be effective, nor presented comprehensive data showing it brought down crime. He thought the money would be better used for the schools’ budget shortfall.

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said then that the decision to fire Barnett was premature.

“I’ve talked to enough people that are close enough to the conversation to believe that this man will probably be exonerated down the road,” Barfield said.

He added another Port City United employee that was fired by the county had charges dropped. Though Barfield didn’t name anyone, only one other PCU employee has been let go in connection to a crime. Rone’Quia Harris faced two felony accessory charges in connection to a shooting that killed 45-year-old Tammy Hayes on Feb. 26, 2022. The event took place before Harris was hired as a PCU Connect specialist on April 19, 2022; she was let go a little more than a week later.

As well, PCU’s inaugural executive director, Cedric Harrison, was terminated in 2023 due to poor performance, insubordination and misuse of county property. Rashad Garrison was hired as his replacement.

According to court records, McNeil has had a few run-ins with law enforcement before this week’s arrest. In 2019, he was arrested for a 14-year-old’s shooting in Houston Moore, but the charges were dropped, due to the victim not cooperating. 

A year later in 2020, McNeil was charged for shooting a man on Rankin Street and pleaded guilty a year later to assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and felony carrying a concealed gun.

McNeil is also believed to be involved with a gang, according to Lt. Brewer.


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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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