Two in custody after gunshots fired near Confederate statue

Published 8:18 pm Sunday, May 31, 2020

Editor’s note: For a more detailed story on the protests on Monday, read: ‘Keep it peaceful’: Gunshots ring out as protesters gathered.

SALISBURY — Police say two people have been arrested after two to three gunshots rang out during a peaceful protest at the “Fame” Confederate monument.

No one was injured by the gunshots.

The city of Salisbury said Sunday afternoon Jeffrey Allan Long, 49, and Brandon M. Walker, 34, were in custody. Charges for both individuals are pending, a news release stated.

Three handguns were recovered, but the city’s news release did not specify to whom the weapons belonged. City Communications Director Linda McElroy said an investigation was ongoing.

The arrests stem from an incident that occurred at the intersection of Innes and Church streets in downtown Salisbury between a group of people protesting recent killings of black Americans that have drawn national attention and a Confederate group.

Witnesses described two to three gunshots ringing out as protesters stood across from the Confederate group that gathered across the street.

Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black said a man from the Confederate group antagonized protesters on the other side of the street by threatening to kill them. Neither Black nor the NAACP organized the protest on Sunday, but he and other members of the organization worked to keep things calm after tensions erupted.

Black said he asked nearby police officers to move closer to the scene when it became clear tensions were rising.

“I told them I don’t know if I can control everybody that’s in the crowd and keep it peaceful,” Black recalled telling police officers.

Witnesses said there was an argument between the man who fired shots and protesters before shots rang out. Exact details of that argument were not immediately clear on Sunday evening.

When shots were fired, people in the crowd scrambled, some of them spilling into the street and attempting to directly confront the man who fired shots. Two nearby police officers took the man, Long, into custody.

Police officers take Jeffrey Alan Long, who witnesses said fired two to three shots in the air, into custody.

A Post reporter observed police with three men on the ground in the former Wells Fargo parking lot. Police at the time said they were unable to comment about the status of the men. Black said the men were temporarily detained because they were searched for weapons. Black and other witnesses said they were certain that two of those men were released and that a third was Walker. The city of Salisbury did not confirm that Sunday night.

People who identified themselves as members of the Confederate group declined to comment to the Post.

Immediately after the shots fired incident, the group of protesters began marching through downtown and, later, down Innes Street to its intersection with Arlington Street. A North Carolina Highway Patrol helicopter circled over the area. Police officers from neighboring jurisdictions were observed driving to the scene of the incident.

Josh Bergeron / Salisbury Post – People scatter from the scene of a protest during which shots rang out.

The crowd later marched back to the “Fame” Confederate monument, where it grew larger and louder. It dissipated shortly after police shut down five blocks of Main and Innes streets near downtown.

Josh Bergeron / Salisbury Post – Protesters on Sunday walk through a crosswalk at the Square in downtown.

Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander said that the city supports peaceful protests and will not tolerate any kind of violence or intimidation.

“There’s no need for guns at all for a peaceful protest,” she told the Post. “Stay apart if you’re on opposing sides of an issue and express your free speech but avoid violence.”

Alexander said she is asking all citizens to respect other protestors.