Mint Hill Middle/Queen’s Grant locked down for gun scare

This morning, Mint Hill Middle School and Queen’s Grant community school were briefly placed on lockdown, after Mint Hill Police received a call saying there was a man with a gun near the area.

No suspect was found, and Mint Hill Police urge that the lockdown was only a precautionary measure, and that students at either school were never in danger.

A press release by Mint Hill Police reads:

“at approximately 1016hrs, Mint Hill Police were advised that a passing motorist observed a “tan” skin male, slender build, approximately 5’6 to 5’8 was walking along Idlewild Road near Kale Lane. The complainant advised that the male was walking in the direction of Mint Hill Middle School near the wood line. The complainant advised the male was carrying a red backpack and a long gun (shotgun). He was approximately 1/4 to 1/2 mile from the school in a heavily wooded area.”

Officers from Mint Hill Police Department, Matthews Police Department, and CMS Law Enforcement circulated the area for around 90 minutes, with help from a CMPD Air Unit.
No subject was ever found, and officers cleared the area.

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Future PD parking may go against ordinance

When the transition from the current town hall to the new town hall is complete, renovations will begin on the old building in an effort to convert it into the new Mint Hill Police Department.  The plans show a secured parking area in the rear of the building, leaving no spaces for public parking.  The Board of Commissioners held a public hearing at their August 16 meeting on the request for parking in the front of the building, a request that goes against the town’s ordinance.  No one from the public spoke on the issue.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t support this because I feel like as a town we should be setting the example for our codes and ordinances and not granting ourselves an exception.  We should hold ourselves to the same standards that we hold other property owners to,” said Commissioner Tina Ross.

”I think this property’s unique in that we have very few downtown buildings that sit this far back off the road,” said Mayor Ted Biggers.  “With this being a police facility it creates a unique situation.  The building is being designed to have a secure, private parking lot in the rear.  That will be a gated parking lot.  Only the police will have access to the rear of the building, so for the public to gain access to the building and to have handicap parking, which allows the handicapped to park close to the main entrance, I’m going to support this proposal.”

The request was sent to the Planning Board, which met August 20.  The board moved to ask the commissioners to look at all the other options before allowing parking in the front of the building.

In other matters

  • The board accepted the treasurer’s report, the tax collector’s report, set a public hearing date for an amendment to the downtown sidewalk code, adopted a fee schedule, accepted the full settlement report for tax collections for the last fiscal year, adopted an order for Mecklenburg County to collect 2012 taxes, and adopted amendments to the 2012 and 2013 fiscal year budgets.
  • A resolution was passed ensuring quality water service.
  • A camping ordinance restricting tents and overnight camping in public spaces was adopted in an effort to deter activity related to the Democratic National Convention.  Commissioner Ross voiced concern about the ordinance’s affect on other camping plans, including Relay for Life.  The board intends to rescind the ordinance after the DNC at the September 13 meeting.
  • During the public comments a Mint Lake Village resident spoke in opposition to the 7-Eleven gas station and car wash plans for the intersection of Matthews-Mint Hill Road and Idlewild Road.  He was concerned about traffic, ground contamination, and diminishing property value.  Another resident asked the board to consider revising the noise ordinance, saying it was “outdated and way too lax.”  He suggested what Mecklenburg County has in place, and referenced the change Matthews is considering.  Toni Byers, who spoke at the public hearing on the rezoning petition to allow a fire station at the intersection of Arlington Church Road and Cabarrus Road, asked the board to not allow the rezoning.
  • The mayor and town manager Brian Welch are working with the Mint Hill Historical Society and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools regarding the old Bain Elementary School building.  They are setting up a committee to gauge community interest in saving the building.
  • The rezoning petition to construct the new fire station was approved.
  • The board appointed Charlie Burdick to the Board of Adjustment, and reappointed the Parks and Recreation Committee members and the Planning Board members.  The mayor thanked everyone who applied for these positions, saying they received good applications.
  • The board decided not to transplant the town’s evergreen tree when the town hall moves.
  • The fire department received 207 EMS calls and 74 fire calls in June, and 215 EMS calls and 83 fire calls in July, making the total number of calls for the year 1,891.
  • The town’s lawyer will provide a report on the Historic Landmark Commission agreement.  Mint Hill is the only town in Mecklenburg County who does not work with the group.
  • The next town hall meeting will be in the current building.  The new town hall is waiting for furniture.
  • In a closed session the board decided to purchase property at 11131 Lawyers Road for $50,199.
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Fatal hit and run

Mint Hill Police were dispatched to the 6300 block of Lebanon Road at 2:47 this morning to find a man lying in the middle of the road.  Medical personnel pronounced him deceased at approximately 2:57 am.  It appeared that he had been struck by a vehicle, which had left the scene.

The MHPD Crash Investigation Unit and Criminal Investigation Division are investigating this case.  They are not releasing the victim’s name, as the family has not yet been notified.  Police are asking anyone who has information relevant to the investigation, or who has noticed damage to the front of a vehicle that may look suspicious, to contact MHPD at 704-545-1085.

Update (8/16/12 11:19 am):  The victim has been identified as Jeffrey M. Hardin, 23, of Mint Hill.  He was walking against traffic east on Lebanon Road when he was struck.  Investigators believe the car was not speeding.  The investigation continues, and anyone with information is encouraged to call the MHPD.

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MHPD benefits from K9 unit

Sgt. McKenzie and K9 Officer Ajay have worked together at the MHPD for five years. 

The Mint Hill Police Department is equipped with two working dogs.  Ajay and Bady go to work with their handlers, Sgt. McKenzie and Officer Mahmutovic.  They have been trained to find drugs, perform building searches, track suspects, and perform article searches.
The dogs spend a lot of time waiting in the K9 unit vehicle.  It’s equipped with a hot dog alarm, which automatically rolls down windows if temperatures get too hot.  Most of his calls are to sniff out traffic stops.  They have assisted with the DEA and police departments in Matthews, Pineville, and Charlotte.
McKenzie has seen a change in the number of people who run from him since he’s become a handler.  In his first four years, nine people attempted to run from him, but no one has tried it since they see the K9 logo on his car.
Ajay and Bady were bred in the Czech Republic.  Breeders pair dominant, trainable dogs, and a litter might produce just one dog that meets the behavioral requirements for police dogs.  American kennels purchase dogs from Europe, and bring them back to continue training.  They can cost between $6,000 and $12,000.  Mint Hill’s K9s came from a kennel in Greenville, N.C., and they respond to Czech commands.
“We spent a month at the kennel; we had to live there.  And we pretty much trained 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week,” said McKenzie.
He works with Ajay, an eight-year-old German Shepherd who has worked with the MHPD for five years.  McKenzie is his first handler.  When Ajay retires around the age of 10, McKenzie will gladly take him in as a family dog.
“I’ve always been an animal person.  I’ve always had dogs, and trained dogs for duck hunting,” he said.

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MHPD Police Explorer program

The Mint Hill Police Department is holding its annual fundraising golf tournament Saturday, October 6 at Larkhaven Golf Course on Camp Stewart Road in Charlotte to support its newly instated Police Explorer program.  This national program operates under the Boy Scouts of America, though it is a non-scouting group.  Mint Hill’s Police Explorers were established at the beginning of this year.

The Police Explorer program is for young people 14-20 years old who have an interest in a career in law enforcement.  Police Chief, Tim Ledford, hopes the program can give some direction to kids who need it.

Applications for the program have been provided to the high schools in the area.  Interested students should turn in the applications and an essay on why they want to be in the program to the police department, where a review board will choose the top applicants.

The cadets-in-training will find mentors in police officers.  They will attend classes for interviewing techniques, taking fingerprints at crime scenes, and how to write a report, among other skills.  Proficiency will be awarded with equipment for the duty belt.  For an example, proficiency in handcuffing skills will result in handcuffs for the belt.  Ledford believes this allows them to set goals and have a visual for success.

The program currently has 10 members, and the department wants to expand that to 20.

The golf tournament will raise money for the equipment needed to run the Police Explorers program.  Along with equipment, Ledford would like to issue utility and Class A uniforms.

“We’d like to get some support from the community to supply the equipment and supplies to make this program a solid program,” said Ledford.  He hopes the tournament will raise $5,000.  If that goal is met, the department would also like to set up a scholarship program to award to members going to college to study Criminal Justice.

“It would be a major milestone in my career to see a program where we started these kids out a young age, they’ve gone through our program, and then one of them finally gets accepted as a police officer somewhere.  I think that’d be great,” said Ledford.

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Deadly crash on Bain School Road

Mint Hill Police released a statement early this morning that Wednesday at 7:53 police dispatched to a fatal single vehicle crash.  The car struck a tree in the front yard of 12601 Bain School Road.  A male was ejected from the car and was found lying on the ground.  He was pronounced dead on the scene.  Two other males were in the car.  One was transported to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte by air, and the other was transported by ground.  One of the men has life threatening injuries.  The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Major Crash Investigation Unit is working with the Mint Hill Police Department to investigate the incident.  Police believe speed and alcohol are factors.

Update: The names of the men involved in the accident have been released.  Enrique Omar Ochoa, 23, of Mint Hill, died at the scene of the accident.  Cameron C. Thomas Wells, 18, and Brandon Scott Smith, 19, of Mint Hill, are in critical condition at CMC.  Sergeant B. A. Beck of the Mint Hill Police Department is leading the investigation, which is ongoing.

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