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Woman wounded by gunfire outside restaurant

A woman was wounded by gunfire in the wee hours of Monday morning along the 1000 block of North Wesleyan Boulevard.

Rocky Mount police responded about 3 a.m. Monday to a call about a shooting with injury at the Cook Out restaurant at 1020 North Wesleyan Blvd., according to a news release from the Rocky Mount Police Department.

A 24-year-old woman was shot during the incident and was transported to Nash UNC Health Care, where she was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and later released. From emergency radio traffic about the incident, it appears that she was transported to the hospital by an unknown person before police arrived at the scene.

During an investigation of the crime scene, police found multiple shell casings in the Cook Out parking lot and near Jeffreys Road and Sutters Creek Boulevard, which is consistent with suspects shooting from a moving vehicle, Rocky Mount police Cpl. Ricky Jackson said Monday in the news release.

“During the preliminary investigation, evidence determined this shooting was not random, and the suspects are possibly known to each other,” Jackson said.

It is not clear from the statement whether the victim of the shooting is also considered a suspect in the case or if she was a bystander caught in the crossfire. A request for clarification was not answered by press time.

A recording of the emergency radio transmissions during the time of the investigation adds more detail to the report. On the call, a woman officer is heard to say, “The truck stopped on 301 right there in front of Cook Out. A car stopped behind it. The shooting started and that’s when the victim’s car got struck in the Red Lobster parking lot on the backside close to 301.”

U.S. 301 is also called North Wesleyan Boulevard in that area of Rocky Mount. The Red Lobster restaurant is located adjacent to the Cook Out.

A recording of the emergency radio transmissions around the time of incident indicates that the drama moved to the scene of the emergency department of Nash UNC Health Care where the victim was taken for treatment. Radio reports indicated that the disorderly crowd of people tried to gain access to the emergency room after the shooting was reported.

An officer is heard on the call saying, “It is confirmed that the shooting victim is here at the hospital. The Cook Out crowd is still here out in the parking lot, disorderly, trying to storm the door.”

That incident apparently was soon brought under control.

The shooting is still under investigation by police, who are asking for help from the public in solving the case.

Anyone with information about the incident should call the Rocky Mount Police Department at 252-972-1411 or Twin Counties CrimeStoppers at 252-977-1111.

Tips also can be texted to the police via Text-A-Tip at 274637 by beginning messages with RMPOL and typing up to 155 characters about the information.

Nonprofit group aims to help neighbors in need

Little Raleigh, a small neighborhood located in the south end of Rocky Mount, is where Billy Coppage called home.

Coppage watched his single mother struggle throughout her life. After growing up in a low-income neighborhood and witnessing a cycle of incarceration for many in his community, Coppage saw firsthand the struggles his neighbors faced.

A graduate of Northern Nash High School, Coppage owns Simply Organic Smoothie, which supplies freshly made organic juices, smoothies and smoothie bowls.

Coppage’s experience growing up in Little Raleigh motivated him to start the nonprofit organization, P.U.S.H., which stands for Pursuing Until Something Happens. The goal at P.U.S.H is to facilitate innovative techniques to accommodate the needs in the community by lending a helping hand, a listening ear and words of encouragement, he said.

Coppage said his vision for the organization is very clear.

“P.U.S.H. is dedicated to the success of children, women and men. We aim to show them the most efficient ways to make positive, life-changing decisions by providing them with resources needed for success,” he said. “Our goal is to reach, teach and guide by providing the mental and physical tools to be a better person throughout life.”

Coppage said it’s important that people know they don’t have to face their struggles alone.

“We want to provide the community with the tools to not only manage their finances, work and home life, we want people to learn ways to stay healthy mentally and emotionally,” he said.

Coppage said he plans to hold events throughout the year geared at raising money for resources and giving back to area neighborhoods. P.U.S.H. hosted a backpack drive earlier this summer at Buck Leonard Park.

The event provided hundreds of school supplies to local children and was made possible with some help from Councilman T.J. Walker, the Foundation Builder’s Academy, Buck Leonard Association for Sports and Human Enrichment, King of Pearls; Spaceway Brewing, P.A.T.C.H nonprofit, Power Company Films, Cen’sational Creation Hair Salon, Creative Excursions and VP Nursing.

“We’re dedicated members of the community who share the common goal of paying it forward for the betterment of our community,” Coppage said. “We’re all pushing for things in life — we’re pushing for success, pushing for better finances, pushing overall to be better people.”

City to host meetings about proposed community land trust

The City of Rocky Mount is going to have two community and stakeholder meetings — one this week and the other the next week — about a proposed community land trust.

Jim Johnson and Jeanne Milliken Bonds are going to provide an overview and take questions from the audiences. Johnson and Bonds are professors at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The first meeting is going to be at 6 p.m. Thursday in the City Council chamber at City Hall. The second meeting is going to be at 6 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Booker T. Theater along East Thomas Street.

Generally, a community land trust is a nonprofit organization that owns and manages land that homes are built on, with an individual allowed to purchase a home on one of those properties. Subsequent structural improvements to the home would belong to that respective homeowner.

The process of getting a community land trust organized locally is in the early stages.

City Policy Analyst Jayson Dawkins said in a video posted Thursday on the City of Rocky Mount’s TV 19 YouTube channel that after the community and stakeholder meetings the plan is to present organizational documents to the City Council for approval.

And Dawkins said the next step would probably be to look at developing a steering committee and pushing forward an action group to establish the foundation for the community land trust.

The City Council already has been hearing details from Johnson and Bonds and students at UNC-Chapel Hill about community land trusts, with a three-year timeline proposed to develop clusters of properties for a community land trust in Rocky Mount and to subsequently build momentum.

During the municipality’s 2021 annual retreat, which was held from April 7-9 in Asheville, online viewers learned that City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney and her team had created a draft strategic plan for affordable housing in Rocky Mount that would include a community land trust.

As part of the retreat, the council also heard a presentation from Asheville-Buncombe Community Land Trust Executive Director Anna Zuevskaya.

Small-Toney has since made clear she wants to allocate $3 million of more than $11.52 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the City of Rocky Mount to help launch the affordable housing strategic plan in Rocky Mount.

Small-Toney also has since made clear that of the $3 million for the proposed affordable housing strategic plan, she would suggest reserving $1 million of that amount for a community land trust.

Dawkins has told the council that the community land trust would cost approximately $261,000 the first year and would be followed by costs of roughly $1 million over a three-year period.

Rocky Mount man sentenced on drug charges

A Rocky Mount man has been sentenced to a minimum of 43 months in prison for attempting to traffic heroin and fleeing to elude arrest.

William Nicholson, 39, was sentenced earlier this month in Nash County Superior Court for felony fleeing to elude arrest in a motor vehicle and for attempted trafficking by transport of heroin.

Nicholson received a sentence of a minimum of 43 months and a maximum of 70 months in state prison.

Nicholson was last known to live on the 1600 block of Aycock Street in Rocky Mount.

The charges stemmed from a traffic stop that took place on June 10, 2020, where Nicholson fled from Nash County narcotic deputies. During the pursuit, Nicholson threw 147 dosage units of heroin out of his passenger window of the vehicle

At the conclusion of the pursuit, Nicholson was arrested at a residence on Aycock Street in Rocky Mount and all narcotics were collected by investigative officers.

Nicholson has an extensive history of distributing narcotics in the Nash and Edgecombe county area, Nash County Chief Deputy Brandon Medina said in a statement.

According to state records, Nicholson was first convicted in Nash County of armed robbery in 2001. He has since been convicted on multiple charges including drug charges, assault on a female, violation of protection order and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Nicholson is incarcerated at Craven Correctional Institution. His current projected release date is November 2025.