North Carolina mother leaned on faith to rebuff crowd

State News

In this image made from a video chat, Monica Shepard responds to questions from a reporter in her home in the Rocky Point area of Pender County, N.C., Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Shepard said she and her son were confronted with an angry group, some of whom were armed, who came to their house in a case of mistaken identity looking for another person whom they believed was involved in a crime. (Cody Jackson/Zoom via AP)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — There were no weapons for Monica Shepard to use to keep a group of armed people out of her home as they sought her son in connection with a missing girl. All there was, she said, was faith to resist and determination to protect him.

“I was vulnerable. They had the crowd. They had the weapons. I had nothing,” Shepard, who is black, said Tuesday of the all-white group that gathered in front of her family’s home earlier this month. “I was standing before a crowd, but I had the faith. I didn’t have any fear for myself, and I think maybe that was displayed in my eyes, because I told them ‘I don’t care. You’re not coming in my house, period.’”

The crowd at Shepard’s door included a man who worked for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and has since been fired, officials said. Last Friday, District Attorney Ben David said Jordan Kita would be charged with trespassing and breaking and entering.

James W. Lea, a lawyer for Shepard’s family, said Kita led an armed group on May 3 to the home of Dameon Shepard, 18, a senior at Laney High School in Wilmington. Kita was looking for Lekayda Kempisty, a 15-year-old girl who was reported missing earlier that day. She was later found safe.

“I was in survival mode. Well, protective mode, or mama bear, to protect my son,” said Monica Shepard, 48, who works as an accountant at a local company. “He was my main priority. I really didn’t have any fear. I really didn’t have any anger. I was in shock, but I was more fearful for him than I was for myself.”

The crowd’s target was a home next door to the Shepards, but the person there had moved out a month earlier, she said.

In a previous interview, Shepard told news outlets that her son repeatedly tried to point out to the group that they had the wrong house and that a yard sign out front explicitly congratulated “Dameon” on his high school graduation, but the crowd didn’t move.

Finally, she said Dameon resorted to a tactic that would soon have the crowd dispersing.

“Because he was startled when he saw the weapons and he began to stutter, they felt like he was lying,” Shepard said. “But what made them stop was he started chanting ‘My name is Dameon Shepard. I go to Laney High School. The sign that has my name on it is in the front yard.’

“He just kept chanting over and over ‘My name is Dameon Shepard,’ and that’s when they stopped, when they realized they were at the wrong house,” she said. “The more he would chant, and his chant was not a loud scream, it was just a monotone chant. But, somehow, it sort of fell on their ears for them to realize ‘Wait a minute, we’re at the wrong house.’”

Shepard said her neighborhood in the small town of Rocky Point, just outside of Wilmington, is predominantly white and very close with one another. She said her neighbors came out to support her once the crowd dispersed. It was one of them who called the police, she said.

It would take another week before charges were filed against Kita. Shepard said she wouldn’t question the timing but felt it should have happened that night. It’s unclear whether Kita had an attorney who could comment on the charges.

David, the district attorney, was criticized by the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union for waiting five days to respond to the incident. In a statement, David declined comment, citing the continuing investigation.

The Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, said Tuesday that the organization was “infuriated that such a thing would occur in this period of time and so much time elapsed between the time that it happened and the time that we heard anything.”

Shepard said while her son was shocked by the experience, his spirits have been lifted by the outpouring of support throughout the community and from coast to coast, including New York and California.

With the incident behind them, Shepard said she and her son rediscovered the bond they forged when he was 8 and she and his father divorced.

“It tells us we have strength beyond anything we could have imagined,” she said. “We’ve just been each other’s strength. That’s what we were that night. He was worried about me. I was worried about him. We feed on that strength.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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