Wounded Raleigh officer’s family starts ‘recovery’ fund. What will happen to $76K already raised?

The Raleigh Police Department on Monday announced that a fund has been established on behalf of Officer Charles D. Ainsworth, who was seriously wounded by gunfire last week.

But another fundraising campaign already has raised tens of thousands of dollars on behalf of Ainsworth, and now there’s a dispute about the release of those funds.

One day after the shooting in West Raleigh, David Blackwelder, president of the Wake County Chapter of the N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance, set up a Gofundme page on behalf of Ainsworth. By late Monday afternoon, the Gofundme campaign had garnered more than $76,000 from 1,300 contributors.

Blackwelder said that he has spoken twice to Ainsworth’s brother and twice to his sister in law, but he has not spoken to Ainsworth’s wife.

“They want the money, but I told them numerous times the money is for Officer Ainsworth. We cannot give it to other family members. It has to go to him specifically,” Blackwelder told The News & Observer. “I guess the family members were wanting the money now. It’s been four days, and they want the money now.”

Blackwelder said he cannot legally give the funds to anyone except for Ainsworth. He said that his attorney advised him that turning the money over to the family would amount to fraud because he wrote on the Gofundme site that the money would go to the officer.

“I want him to have the money. I wanted as a law enforcement officer to help a fellow law enforcement officer,” Blackwelder said. “And unfortunately, I try to do the right thing, and their family, I guess, while he’s laying in the hospital room, they want the money now.”

Meanwhile, Ainsworth’s family partnered with the Local Government Federal Credit Union to establish “The Charles Ainsworth Recovery Fund,” said Donna-maria Harris, a police spokeswoman, on Monday night.

Police officials have distanced the department from Blackwelder’s Gofundme. They described the family fund as “the official account to receive donations benefiting Officer Ainsworth who was injured in the line of duty on January 9.”

“RPD has no dealings with the Gofundme account,” Harris said in an email to The N&O.

Blackwelder said that his goal was to ensure that Ainsworth was taken care of and financially secure in the long term.

“I’m really hurt by it, but I’ve assured the family he’s getting all the money,” Blackwelder added. “I’m just waiting for him to make that decision, under advisement of the attorney.”

Brain Aus, general counsel for the Sheriff Police Alliance, told The News & Observer that fraud statutes prevent it from giving the money to the family without a power of attorney. If the wife were to have a power of attorney, the alliance would be willing to turn over the funds, he said.

“What Dave Blackwelder is trying to do is be as transparent as possible,” Aus said. He is concerned that this situation will become associated with instances of fraud on Gofundme such as the recently publicized case in New Jersey.

Ainsworth had been working as a sworn officer for a little over a year when he stepped out of his patrol car near Western Boulevard about 8:30 p.m. Jan. 9 to investigate a stolen vehicle. It was Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

Police say Cedric Jamal Kearney, 23, of Henderson shot Ainsworth multiple times with a .45-caliber handgun. Kearney has been charged with attempted murder.

Blackwelder stated that as president of the nonprofit law enforcement alliance, “my mission is to support those who serve our community. Please donate to this brave hero” he stated on the Gofundme page.

Police officials on Monday say those wishing to make a donation to the new fund, can write checks to “LGFCU” and in the memo line indicate the deposit is for The Charles Ainsworth Recovery Fund.

Donations may also be mailed to:

Local Government Federal Credit Union

3600 Wake Forest Road

Raleigh, North Carolina 27609

Attention: The Charles Ainsworth Recovery Fund

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Carli Brosseau is a reporter at The News & Observer who often analyzes databases as part of her work. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.