A North Carolina woman says she feared for her life after half a dozen Garner Police officers raided her home last week, seizing several of her belongings after a noise complaint from her white neighbor.
“There was no provocation or warning,” Mikisa Thompson told IndyWeek via email. “They were watching the house all day. Garner PD wants to kill me.”
The incident unfolded around 10 p.m. May 16 outside Thompson’s split-level home, where several police officers had flooded the street while a few stood at her front door. Thompson’s children, who initially hid in an upstairs bathroom, took out their phones to record as their mother answered the door.
After reading a search warrant, Garner officers spread through Thompson’s home and seized an HP laptop, a computer monitor and speakers, at least seven iPhones, a MacBook, an alarm clock and charging cables, according to the outlet.
To make matters worse, Thompson was slapped with a court summons for allegedly violating the city’s noise ordinance after her next-door neighbor, Don Barnette, complained that she’d played her Malcolm X speeches too loudly. Thompson’s attorney called Thursday’s raid “absolute overkill.”
“The raid was officially insane and based on an unconstitutional statute,” said T. Greg Doucette. “Doing a midnight raid with nine officers — over a noise ordinance, of all things — is a disproportionate show of force that shows there’s something else at play.”
“That’s the type of overkill that’s intentionally designed to terrorize and punish people,” Doucette added. “Not to actually do what’s necessary for enforcing the case.”
The incident comes just three weeks after Garner police seized Thompson’s property after a previous complaint from Barnette. On April 22, he dialed 911 to gripe that his neighbor was playing “loud Islamic-Muslim preaching” in her backyard as she tidied up the patio. That time, officers took a stereo and issued Thompson a $50 fine.
Last week’s return visit by police was apparently triggered by Barnette’s complaint that Thompson had continued to play “amplified speech being projected [by] some sound amplification device,” a search warrant stated. One officer noted he could hear the noise from Barnette’s property line.
“Our officers did everything that they could at the time to try and bring a peaceful conclusion to this issue before seizing the speaker,” Garner police Cpt. Joe Binns told IndyWeek. “First, we warned Ms. Thompson and asked her to turn it down. When she refused and received a second complaint, we issued her a citation for violation of the ordinance.
Under the city’s noise ordinance, the “playing of any radio, phonograph, television set, record player, sound reproduction device or any musical instrument in such a manner or with such volume during the hours between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort, or repose of persons in any dwelling house, apartment or other type of residence” is strictly forbidden.
However, none of Thompson’s alleged violations occurred during this time frame, IndyWeek reported. Also, the vague wording of the ordinance allows officers full discretion over whether someone is in violation of the ordinance or not.
The North Carolina mom is now charged with a class 3 misdemeanor and faces a $500 fine.
Jessica Turner, a field manager for the ACLU of North Carolina, said the case is the latest example in a “disturbing” trend of Black people having the cops called on them for innocuous reasons, like sleeping in a common room at Yale University or waiting for a friend at Starbucks.
“It’s quite literally life and death for people of color when the police are called on them,” Turner said.
Barnette, 65, insists he isn’t racist and only took issue with the what he described as “Islamic Jihadist-type messages” blaring from Thompson’s stereo. His neighbor was playing speeches by Malcolm X and fellow activist Angela Davis at the time.
“I don’t have anything against any black person that acts like they’ve got sense,” Barnette told the outlet in an interview
He claimed but the noise coming from Thompson’s property was loud enough to wake him at 7:15 a.m., however Thompson denies ever playing the speeches that early. The search warrant indicated police used four videos from Barnette with time stamps of 12:46 p.m., 12:49 p.m., and two at 1:22 p.m. as cause for their action some nine hours later that same day.
“When it’s talking about killing white people and if you’re black and you still work for a white man, you’re a slave, all that kind of stuff, I don’t need to hear that,” Barnette added. “My grandkids don’t need to hear that mess.”
The frustrated neighbor said he and his family feel they’re the “victims of a hate crime” after being subjected to Thompson’s excessive noise. Thompson, on the other hand, believes her neighbor’s complaints were racially motivated.
“The victim of a hate crime is picking up the phone on black people whose only crime that you can detect is that they are playing Islamic speeches,” she argued. “They are filled with hate because it’s a strong black voice and it’s Islamic preaching. All you know is it was loud, it was black, and it was somebody proud of being black, and you wanted to put it to an end.”
Police said they’re unaware of any other noise complaints against Thompson, but were forced to execute the search-and-seizure after she refused to cooperate and continued “annoying her neighbor.”
“We normally don’t have to go to this step,” Binns said of last week’s raid. “We’ve charged many other folks before with a noise ordinance violation, but never to this extreme.”