Apex man arrested for opening up his tattoo parlor during stay-at-home order
Posted April 29, 2020 1:59 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2020 8:42 p.m. EDT
Apex, N.C. — By the time Matthew Myers opened his tattoo parlor on Wednesday, he all but knew he'd be arrested.
Tattoo and piercing businesses aren't considered essential under Gov. Roy Cooper's Executive Order or under Wake County's stay-at-home order, which are intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.
But Myers, the 38-year-old owner of Apex Tattoo Factory, feared his business would die and he'd be unable to pay for his mortgage. So he decided to open and announced his intentions on social media.
When the Apex Tattoo Factory opened at 1 p.m., and the police arrived shortly thereafter, Myers was ready.
After receiving complaints from residents, Apex police had called him about those plans and explained the law.
"I respect the Apex Police Department. And it's probably with the heaviest of heart of all that this has to happen in Apex," he said, adding: "That I have to be the one that's the first bee swatted."
In a statement, police said they consulted the Wake County District Attorney's office before charging Myers with violating "Emergency Prohibitions and Restrictions, North Carolina General Statute 14-288.20A" That could carry a $1,000 fine or a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail if Myers is convicted.
Police transported Myers to the Magistrate’s office at the Wake County Jail in Raleigh, where bond was set. While Myers and his wife Amber told WRAL that his goal was to make a statement, he also rejected the idea that he's a criminal.
"I'm a law-abiding citizen. I've done nothing wrong," he said.
Amber Myers said her husband tried to get a small business loan and unemployment assistance, but he was unsuccessful.
"He has spent years building up this business and for it to be taken away after being shut down for so long would be horrible," Amber Meyers said.
The shop also posted about Myers' arrest on Facebook.
Amber said she supported the ReOpenNC movement -- a movement against Cooper's stay-at-home order. She said she and her husband have been attending the rallies in downtown Raleigh, the latest of which was Tuesday.
Myers was arrested without incident on Wednesday, the Apex Police Department said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
They said that, before arresting Myers, they offered contact information for the Wake County Emergency Management Business Liaison to potentially "discuss options."
In response, police say Myers acknowledged the order but said he still planned to open his business at 1 p.m.
"While understanding of and generally cooperative with officers, he refused to come into compliance with the Proclamation and was subsequently arrested without further incident," the police statement says.
Apex Mayor Jacques Gilbert, a retired police captain for the town, described Myers to WRAL as "a good man."
"Whatever the consequences are to his decision, I'm gonna be there after it all and extend my hand to him and say 'I'm in this with you,'" Gilbert told WRAL. "And I support you and we're gonna get through this together."
Gilbert said he is not urging people to break the law.
"What I would say about him is that he's making a decision that obviously I wouldn't make in my current position, but I'm not in his position," Gilbert said. "I don't know exactly how he feels."