PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Two people, including a now former New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy, will be charged with crimes in relation to an incident where a family says it was terrorized by a large group of people last weekend in Pender County, according to District Attorney Ben David.
Pender County Sheriff Alan Cutler and David announced the charges Friday, five days after the incident happened in the Avendale community.
In a letter addressed to the district attorney’s office Thursday, attorney James Lea claimed that an armed group of people, all white, knocked on the door of the home of Monica Shepard late Sunday night. She was asleep, but her son, Dameon, a high school senior, was awake and playing video games and answered the door.
Lea said the group demanded to know information about a young missing girl. The group was apparently looking for an individual named Josiah, who lived next door to the Shepards but left that neighborhood a month earlier.
Lea said Dameon identified himself by name several times, but the group continued to press for information that he did not have.
Among the people on the Shepard’s porch demanding answers was a person carrying an assault weapon and another with a shotgun, Lea wrote in the letter.
Also part of the group was an off-duty member of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Jordan Kita, who was assigned to the detention division, was in uniform and armed, according to David.
When Dameon attempted to shut the door after telling the group who he was, Lea says the New Hanover County deputy stuck his foot in the door and demanded to come inside.
Shepard woke up during this commotion and also tried to get the group to leave her property, indicating the person they were looking for did not live there. Once again, according to Lea, the group continued to question the Shepards, demanding to come inside. The deputy also blocked Shepard from closing her door.
Lea says at some point the group realized they were at the wrong residence and started disbanding, but by that time the Pender County Sheriff’s Office was called to the disturbance.
Friday, David announced Kita will face charges of forcible trespass, breaking and entering, and willful failure to discharge duties. The last charge is related to duties as being a sworn officer of the sheriff’s office. David also announced that Kita was fired Friday and read a statement from Sheriff Ed McMahon, who did not appear at the news conference. David said there is a family connection between the former deputy and the girl the group was searching for that night.
A second person, Austin Wood, will be charged with going armed to the terror of the community, according to David. More people could face charges as information becomes available, but David said they are working with the information they have been able to gather at this time.
Monica Shepard says the family is putting their trust in the justice system.
“One thing I’ve always told my children is in life we have choices, all of our choices we have consequences to those actions,” she said. "So, I can’t really say whether [Kita’s firing is] enough or not, all I can say is [I] trust that they’re doing what they have to do to make sure they are following their policies based on what was done.”
Sheriff Cutler admitted at the news conference Friday they may have had enough evidence to make an arrest on the night of the incident, but said he was proud his deputies diffused the situation that night and they wanted to make an informed decision on this situation. David said information will come out in court on why it took five days for people to be charged.
“Please remain calm and know that committed professionals will see that justice is done in a courtroom,” Ben David said.
“I’m glad they’ve done what they’ve done so far, but we’re conducting our own investigation. We are approaching it from a civil liability standpoint - not criminal - that’s their job. But we are glad this has been brought to light. As soon as we have completed our investigation, we’ll announce what civil action we intend to take," Lea said after being informed of the decision Friday.
Shepard says in time she and Dameon will be okay.
“We are a quiet close knit family. It was traumatic and shocking, but I’m just thankful that it wasn’t worse,” she said. “I’m going to trust that they’re going to make the right decisions based on what they’re able to do and based on what the law allows them to do, I mean just this much has given me peace of mind knowing that they were going to continue further [in the investigation]. So, I’m confident, so far with the way things have been handled.”