Mall Shooting Death Not Racially Motivated, Police Say
A shooting death at a Hanes Mall brewhouse does not appear to be racially motivated, Winston-Salem police say. The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. The victim, 32-year-old Julius Sampson Jr., is black. The alleged shooter, Robert Anthony Granato, is white.
In a press conference, Police Chief Catrina Thompson said both sides used a racial epithet in an argument that preceded the shooting. But she said what investigators have found so far doesn’t warrant a hate-crime charge.
"Detectives have found no evidence to indicate that this crime was motivated by race,” she said. “Should any evidence to the contrary be developed, detectives and prosecutors will review that evidence and the appropriate charges that evidence would support.”
Questions about the racial aspect of the case arose quickly on social media, which led police and city officials to address the issue head-on.
“Our department is and will continue to be about facts,” Thompson said. “Of course we use social media to help us in our investigation. But we all know that information in social media does not always have to be factual to get out there.”
Granato faces murder and weapons charges.
More than 100 people took part in a vigil in the restaurant parking lot where Sampson died.
Rev. Paul Robeson Ford, senior pastor of First Baptist Church on Highland Avenue, led a unity prayer. He called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.” He called for truth and transparency in the investigation and an end to the divisiveness in the community.
Arnita Miles, a friend of Sampson’s, organized the vigil.
“We want to make a difference,” she said. “We want people to get out and vote and do something about these gun laws... Julius’ death has got to stand for something.”
Sampson was a frequent customer of the brewhouse, and Miles praised the business for supporting the vigil on the property.
Mayor Allen Joines released a statement on the shooting.
“On behalf of our entire city, I offer sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Julius Randolph Sampson Jr.,” he said. “Please be assured that the city is fully investigating this terrible tragedy. While we are uncertain as to the totality of the crime, please be assured that we will investigate all aspects of the persons involved and take any and all appropriate action as a result of the investigation.”