Politics & Government

Man arrested after black volunteer says he was threatened at Charlotte polling site

Early voting nearly turned violent in Charlotte on Wednesday, when a Republican volunteer reported being confronted with a gun and racial slurs at a Mecklenburg County polling place.

Derek Partee, who is black, said three white people angrily approached him at the Steele Creek polling place, which is southwest of Charlotte near Carowinds, in the 11100 block of South Tryon Street.

Partee posted photos of the three on Facebook, including a photo in which one heavily tattooed man can be seen openly carrying a pistol in a hip holster. A few hours after Partee called police, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department announced it had arrested a 28-year-old Charlotte man named Jason Donald Wayne in connection with the incident.

“Down here in Steele Creek working the polls just threatened by two white males in(and) a white female who called me a N***a, Black piece of s*** and he exposed his weapon,” Partee wrote on Facebook, but using uncensored language. “I had to back off and call CMPD, folks are getting bold and forward in the time.”

Wayne was charged with ethnic intimidation, communicating threats, disorderly conduct and going armed to the terror of the public, according to local jail records. Police said the two others who were with Wayne will not be charged with any crimes.

While it’s still unclear exactly what kind of gun could be seen in the holster during the polling place incident, police said when they arrested Wayne on Wednesday night he was carrying a BB gun in the holster.

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In an interview with The News & Observer Wednesday night, Partee said he arrived at the polling place around 2:30 p.m. when a fellow volunteer pointed out the three people in the parking lot who had been taking photos that day and previously. Partee, who is a retired homicide detective from New York, said he decided to take down the license plate number of their car — but before he could, the man with the apparent gun jumped out of the car and confronted him.

“He said something about being a Republican, I said I am a Republican, he said ‘Motherf***** you ain’t s***,’” Partee said.

“They didn’t care whether I was a Democrat or a Republican, they just cared that I was black.”

Partee said he has lived in Charlotte for the last six years and for the last year has been the vice chairman of the GOP’s group for the 12th Congressional District, where volunteers like him are working to unseat Democratic Rep. Alma Adams. Adams is being challenged this year by Republican candidate Paul Wright.

As for Wayne, he isn’t registered to vote in North Carolina. State records show that someone with his name and date of birth is a convicted felon, having served more than a year in prison during 2015 and 2016 for assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. And while it’s illegal for felons to vote in North Carolina while they’re serving any part of their sentence, including parole, their voting rights are automatically restored after the sentence is over and Wayne’s parole ended in 2017, according to state records.

Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the state Republican Party, said the incident has spurred the party to make sure officials and volunteers know to watch out for potential attacks.

“The NCGOP condemns all forms of political violence and voter intimidation, no matter the source,” Woodhouse said Wednesday night. “Our county offices are already under heightened states of scrutiny due to vandalism we have already seen at offices this year, and the unsolved political terrorist firebombing of our Orange County offices in 2016.”

That 2016 firebombing was never solved, although authorities have long suspected local anarchists, according to previous reporting by the News & Observer.

CMPD said in its Wednesday night release that the department formed a team of officers to investigate the incident “and they were able to quickly identify all three of these individuals,” after which “the suspect was located and arrested without incident.”

In addition to the state-level charges against Wayne, police are discussing with the FBI whether federal charges “may be appropriate,” according to the news release.

The department plans to conduct checks at all polling sites through the Nov. 6 election, police said.

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Doran: 919-826-2858; Twitter: @will_doran