Local News

4 more charged for Durham Confederate statue vandalism; 8 total arrests made

Posted August 17, 2017 8:31 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:39 p.m. EDT

— Four more people were arrested and charged Thursday for vandalizing a Confederate statue earlier this week, bringing the total number of arrests to eight.

Three of the new arrests came during a morning rally where protesters dressed all in black gathered at the Durham courthouse in support of the people charged earlier in the case. Speakers at the rally said they had gathered to get the Durham County Sheriff's Office to drop the charges and to advocate for the removal of all Confederate statues.

Authorities on Thursday morning charged Aaron Alexander Caldwell, 24, Raul Mauro Arce Jimenez, 26, and Elena Everett, 36.

On Thursday afternoon, Taylor Alexander Jun Cook, 24, surrendered to the Durham County Sheriff's Office.

Everett said that she does not have any regrets about her involvement in vandalizing the statue, despite the charges against her.

"The lawmakers in North Carolina have made it impossible to take those things down legally. Communities have the right to remove symbols of racism and white supremacy from their community," Everett said. "I hope people all across the south look at Durham as an example."

Other protesters tried to surrender for the destruction of the statue, the sheriff's office said, but authorities turned them away if they didn't have an arrest warrant.

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Sheriff Mike Andrews said in a statement that the protesters were welcome if they obtained a permit and remained peaceful.

“The Sheriff’s Office supports the right to peaceable assembly," Andrews said. "As the custodian of the courthouse, the safety and security of visitors and employees will remain a top priority for the Sheriff’s Office. We have taken steps to ensure the daily operation of the courthouse can proceed without disruption. I expect participants in the planned rally to obtain a permit and engage in a peaceful demonstration. My Agency will continue to maintain the safety and security of the building.”

Dante Emmanuel Strobino, 35, and Ngoc Loan Tran, 24, both of Durham, were arrested at the Durham County Courthouse on Wednesday, where Takiyah Fatima Thompson, who climbed the statue, was making her first appearance after she was arrested Tuesday. Peter Hull Gilbert, 39, also of Durham, was arrested later Wednesday afternoon.

Tran said a large crowd turned out at the court house Thursday "to send a message to the sheriff's department, to send a message to the county commissioners that if you target some of us for tearing down white supremacy, you'll have to arrest us all."

Tran, Strobino and Gilbert appeared in court Thursday morning and were represented pro bono by attorney Scott Holmes, who said the sheriff's actions against those charged are out of line and noted that the statue was taken down without violence.

"The folks who have been charged with riot have been overcharged," Holmes said. "I'm also concerned that the sheriff has used search warrants to ransack the homes of people involved for an act of vandalism and not violence. It seems to be another indication of overreaching or overcharging."

All eight people are charged with disorderly conduct by injury to a statue and damage to real property, which are both misdemeanors, and participation in a riot with property damage in excess of $1,500 and inciting others to riot where property damage exceeds $1,500, which are both felonies.

Despite the charges, all are standing by their actions.

"Durham will not be targeted into submission. We are organized, we are strong, we are steadfast and we will keep fighting until white supremacy is torn down in this country and all around the world," Tran said.

Caldwell, Jimenez and Everett are all expected to appear in court Friday and a similar crowd is expected to protest outside the courthouse.