Reporter Notebook: The night Officers Shelton and Clark were killed

Reporter Notebook: The night Officers Shelton and Clark were killed

(WBTV) - Forgetting about what happened on the night of March 30, 2007 is next to impossible for this reporter.

I had just walked off the set after anchoring the 11 o'clock news, approached the assignment desk, and heard that all hell was breaking loose in east Charlotte. Voices and screams of emotional panic blared over the police scanners.

Frantic sirens could be heard in the background, and there was the moving of uncertainty after learning that two officers were down.

We were well in the middle of our Sports Saturday Night show which was being anchored at the time by Kricket Morton.

After alerting the control room, I went out on the set in the middle of the sports show and passed along to the viewers the latest information that we had. I then went to the scene.

The intersection of Milton Road and Sharon Amity Road was lit up like a Christmas Tree.

Every kind of first responder vehicle was placed inside the police perimeter, and many more were on standby in nearby parking lots.

If memory serves me correctly, the media staging area was the Walgreens parking lot at that intersection. The waiting was stressful. We knew two officers had been shot.

We saw an intense amount of manpower back and forth from the scene to the hospital, as Saturday night changed into Sunday morning.

Officer Bob Fey who handled media relations with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department gave periodic briefings saying that more information would come and that it would take time.

Around three A.M. a long-time source of mine summoned me to meet him in a parking lot several blocks away.

I did, and was told that two officers were dead.

The source did not give me the names, but hours later after the sun came up CMPD brass confirmed our community's worst fears and concerns.

At a time that many families were getting ready to head off to Sunday morning worship services, we got official confirmation that officers Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton were killed in the line of duty.

The news triggered a flashback to 1993.

That was one of Charlotte's deadliest years on record and in the homicide totals that year were the deaths of Officers Andy Nobles and John Burnette.

I also covered that story.

Police shootings have a way of impacting our community across the spectrum.

At the Timber Ridge Apartments where the officers Clark and Shelton were fatally wounded anger and resentment was as thick as humidity on a summer night.

Residents expressed the hostility displayed by officers as police searched for a suspect, and renters at the complex also returned serve by voicing complaints over how they we treated when the cops showed up at their doors and forcibly entered their residences.

Some alleged they barged in without search warrants.

Anger by the residents was also directed at a young man Steven McMickens who attempted to assist the dying officers.

However, Charlotte showed a sense of caring never before seen.

The aftermath of police shootings are often rooted in community rituals.

In the case of Officers Clark and Shelton thousands of people over the course of two days lined the route of their funeral procession holding American flags, saluting their hearses, and choking back tears.

WBTV photographer Kevin Marlow and I were at both cemeteries providing live coverage as their bodies were brought to their final resting places. What we saw at Forest Lawn during the services for Officer Clark would be replicated the next day for Officer Shelton at Sharon Memorial Park.

Law enforcement agencies from around the country turned out to support CMPD, the families of the slain policemen, and a city still in the grips of grief. Rituals also come when a community goes through a trial connected to the deaths of those in law enforcement.

From the very beginning, Demetrius Montgomery was the only suspect in the case.

Recently, Former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory who was mayor at the time of shooting called it an assassination.

The wounds and sense of loss that pierced so deeply could be seen on the faces of the officer's windows, parents, and CMPD supporters who showed up at court every day.

Montgomery had his relatives and supporters as well.

He would make eye contact with them in the court from time to time but show little if any emotion when prosecutors laid out their case that eventually convicted him.

On the day of the verdict, my colleague Sharon Smith and I offered analysis, provided commentary, and interviewed those who were connected to the trial and case from the lawn of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

Montgomery was ordered to serve two life sentences without parole, and 10 years after this crime some things remain the same.

The Timber Ridge Apartments has not turned the corner against crime and violence.

On a recent visit there, we learned that police had been called to two of the buildings over 50 times between March of last year and March of this year. The complex has roughly a dozen buildings. This community in East Charlotte faces ongoing challenges. High unemployment, lack of opportunity, and limited resources.

And 10 years later one of the greatest tasks that remains is trust.

It remains an ongoing exercise in finding trust with each other and trust with the police.

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