Skip to main content
A1 A1

Roanoke Rapids senior Austin Geary beats a throw to the plate in the opening inning of Thursday’s 12-6 loss to Big East 2A/3A host Northern Nash. The Jackets, now 3-2 this season, resume play on Tuesday at league foe Louisburg.

Haliwa-Saponi school student struck by vehicle after exiting bus: Teenager in stable condition Thursday
  • Updated

A driver was charged after his vehicle hit a teenager departing a school bus Wednesday afternoon in Hollister.

According to First Sgt. Christopher Knox with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol Public Information Office, the SHP responded at 3:42 p.m. to a personal injury collision on NC Highway 561 when 51-year-old Howard Gene Yee of Roanoke Rapids while driving a 2022 Tesla Model Y traveling west failed to stop for a stopped school bus. The vehicle collided with 17-year-old Tillman Mitchell of Hollister while he was crossing the roadway after exiting the school bus.

Tillman was flown to Wake Medical Center in Raleigh with critical injuries.

Knox said initial indications were that Yee was distracted and was the proximate cause of the collision.

Yee is charged with NC GS 20-217(G) passing stopped school bus striking a person, and NC GS 20-140 reckless driving. He was placed in the Halifax County Jail under a $25,000 secured bond.

Tillman is a student of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribal School.

Principal Melissa Richardson sent a school alert message to the public soon after the incident. Richardson’s message notified readers about the traffic accident.

“All other students and the driver were not injured,” she said in the message. “Local law enforcement is investigating the cause of the accident, and proper system protocol will be followed. Our transportation department has a very safe driving record, and this was an isolated incident. Regardless, we want you to be aware as we partner with you for the safety of our scholars.”

Richardson said the school will provide support for students through its student support staff and partnership with Halifax County Schools Hollister Elementary.

On Thursday, Tillman’s cousin, Ladonna Richardson, said he is in stable condition and underwent surgery for a broken leg, and had a neck fracture. Ladonna said he had a laceration on one of his kidneys that doctors said appeared to be healing. Family said later that day the ventilator was removed and he is on the road to recovery.

Ladonna said her stepdaughter was on the bus when the incident happened.

“She’s doing fine, and I think for all the kids, it’s just a shock,” Ladonna said. “They saw it happen. So I can’t imagine what that’s doing to them.”

When asked what her thoughts were as a parent regarding the situation and safety, Ladonna said she herself was almost in an accident with a bus several years ago while driving.

“The bus was coming towards me, and the children had started running out for the bus before it made a complete stop,” she said. “So the car in front of me slammed on brakes, and I swerved to miss the car. That could have turned out to be the same way. But when there’s a bus, you always just have to be so aware because you never know if the kid isn’t going to run out, or if the bus will stop, or if it’s gonna keep going. But I feel sorry for Dr. Yee, and I know he didn’t set out yesterday morning for something like that to happen.”

Ladonna said she does not know what kind of distractions there were for Yee, but emphasized the importance of paying attention when school buses are around.

“Just anytime you see a bus, there’s a possibility of children — that just makes you more vigilant in what you’re doing on the highway,” she said.

HOME Consortium needs public input for housing needs: Only 70 Halifax, 51 Northampton residents participated in survey since February

JACKSON — On March 7, the Choanoke Area HOME Consortium continued its efforts to begin discussions on the housing crisis in the Roanoke Valley and partnered counties.

The meeting was held in Jackson as part of the initiative to address the housing crisis in the five-county consortium.

According to a previous Herald article, the purpose of the CAHS is to develop a consolidated plan to asses affordable housing and community needs to assist in prioritizing decisions for the federally funded HOME Investment Partnership.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website, HOME offers formula grants to states and local areas used by communities — often through local nonprofit group partnerships. The funds cover a range of activities that include building, buying, or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership, as well as rental assistance to low-income individuals.

The Choanoke Area Housing Consortium is comprised of Halifax, Northampton, Bertie, Hertford and Martin counties, including other municipalities. The consortium’s focus is to create a housing strategy that acts as a guide for assisting more affordable housing options.

Read the previous Herald article of the meeting in Halifax County headlined “Halifax County part of five-county consortium to deal with housing crisis: Statistics show homeowners, renters cost-burdened” at

The meeting in Jackson revealed the same situation as Halifax and other countries, where many homeowners and renters are cost-burdened.

HUD considers a household or family to be cost-burdened if they pay more than 30% of their income toward housing. Spending more than 50% of income on housing is considered sever cost-burdened.

According to the information presented, renters who are cost burdened or severe cost burden by county:

Halifax County

• 49% cost burdened

• 28% severe cost burdened

Northampton County

• 43% cost burdened

• 24% severe cost burdened

Hertford County

• 48% cost burdened

• 23% severe cost burdened

Bertie County

• 41% cost burdened

• 26% severe cost burdened

Martin County

• 40% cost burdened

• 17% severe cost burdened

For homeowners:

Halifax County

• 26% cost burdened

• 10% severe cost burdened

Northampton County

• 27% cost burdened

• 13% severe cost burdened

Hertford County

• 22% cost burdened

• 10% severe cost burdened

Bertie County

• 30% cost burdened

• 17% severe cost burdened

Martin County

• 22% cost burdened

• 10% severe cost burdened

Erich Chatham, owner and consultant of Civitas, who was the presenter, said during the Jackson meeting that Halifax County is the lead entity in the consortium and hired the company to assist. Chatham explained that the five-county consortium will receive around $850,000 through the Home Investment Partnership Program.

According to the information, the community needs surround affordable rental housing, affordable owner-occupied, assistance with repairs, senior housing and homeless services. However, there needs to be a way to prioritize those needs, which requires citizen participation through a community survey.

The steps include:

• Public survey

• Data gathering and analysis

• Strategic Plan development

• Annual Action Plan development

• Public comment

• Halifax County Council public hearing and approval

• HUD submission date (May 15)

• Program year start date (July 1)

The survey was first disseminated on Feb. 14, and as of March 17, only 70 in Halifax County and 51 in Northampton participated in the survey.

“We really need public input to help guide the priorities for these limited funds,” Chatham said. “Given the limited nature of these funds it will be imperative that participating organizations and developers leverage additional funding.”

The Herald reached out to Christina Wells, Assistant County Manager for Halifax County, and asked why this initiative is important to the area. Wells said the housing crisis is a consistent theme heard from municipal leadership and the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe during Halifax County Intergovernmental Association meetings.

“Across the board, Halifax County needs more affordable housing options for low- to moderate-income citizens and to create these options, new inventory needs to be constructed and substandard housing needs to be rehabbed,” she said. “The HOME funds coming into our five-county region via the consortium can be leveraged to accomplish these types of projects in partnership with local governments, private developers, homeowners, landlords, nonprofit organizations, etc., as well as to aid tenants with rental assistance and homebuyers with down payments. What we desperately need now is to hear directly from our citizens through the housing survey, as these responses will be incorporated into the consortium’s five-year consolidated plan and the annual action plan to establish the priority areas to address affordable housing in the region.”

Finding ways to maximize the use of the nearly $850,000 that would be divided up among the five counties, discussions during the meetings entertained the idea of coupling grants with the funds.

Wells suggested any grants should be considered.

“If there are other grants that a community is implementing, they should think of using HOME funds to further those works in either number of households/units constructed or rehabbed and/or the amount being spent per housing unit,” she said. “As the consortium communities begin to think of housing work, they should think of leveraging the HOME funds with other program monies to have greater impact.”

With Halifax County being the lead entity, it will receive the $850,000 deposit. Wells said they are in the process of forming an advisory board for the Choanoke Area Housing Consortium comprised of one representative from each member unit of the consortium of the five counties, including the 38 municipalities, and an executive committee to serve as the final decision-making body.

“The Advisory Board will vet potential projects throughout the Consortium to determine qualification for the program and readiness, then prioritize these projects based on the housing needs outlined in the Consolidated Plan and Action Plan,” she said. “The funds are in the Federal/HUD budget for the Consortium beginning in the new fiscal year. However, although the grant has been awarded, there are steps that must be completed to draw funds down for use.”

Wells praised everyone in all of the counties and municipalities who are involved.

“I would like to thank all of the county and municipal leaders who worked together under the guidance of the staff of East Carolina University Division of Research, Economic Development & Engagement, especially Merrill Flood, to establish the Choanoke Area Housing Consortium and successfully apply to HUD for approval and funding,” she said. “This Consortium will enable us to partner to bring much-needed dollars back to our communities to address a crisis-level need for affordable housing. I would also like to thank the former Executive Director of the Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA) Sallie Surface, whose wealth of knowledge and contacts in the arena of housing is unfathomable, and the new Executive Director Chris Moody and other CADA staff for working side-by-side with us throughout the process.”

The community is urged to participate in the survey, which can be found at

Settlement not related to officers' unpaid administrative leave

ROANOKE RAPIDS — According to the city attorney, the settlement between the City of Roanoke Rapids and a plaintiff is unrelated to two officers’ recent unpaid administrative leaves.

On March 10, City Manager Kelly Traynham placed Chief Bobby Martin and Capt. Jamie Hardy of the Roanoke Rapids Police Department on unpaid administrative leave, which has stirred public speculation on the matter.

In a previous Herald article, City Attorney Geoffrey Davis made it clear that there were no lawsuits against the police department and that “NCGS 160A-168 enumerates which pieces of information relating to employees are public record, and ‘the reasons why an employee is placed on leave’ is not among them. Therefore, it’s protected personnel information and the City cannot legally release it.”

Davis clarified that Martin and Hardy remain city employees.

Read the Herald story headlined “Roanoke Rapids city manager places chief, captain on unpaid leave: Capt. Gorton Williams acting police chief” at

With rumors circulating from the public, the City of Roanoke Rapids released documents to the Herald in response to a public records request regarding a settlement. The document is a settlement agreement between the city and Darius Carter, who filed a claim in April regarding the Dec. 20, 2019, incident where he “sustained a gunshot wound to his right elbow during a police chase” that ended in Roanoke Rapids.

According to a previous Herald article, the 2019 incident occurred when RRPD officers and Halifax County Sheriff’s Office deputies pursued Carter after being recognized while driving a vehicle. Carter had outstanding felony warrants for his arrest and led law enforcement on a high-speed chase after an attempted traffic stop. Eventually, Carter was blocked in a private resident’s yard on South Monroe Street, where he drove behind the home.

According to the article, while driving behind the house, Carter was met by Chief Martin, who fired a single shot through the driver’s side window, striking him in the forearm. The incident sparked an SBI investigation through requests from RRPD and the District Attorney’s Office. The investigation placed Martin on paid administrative leave until then former DA Valerie Asbell, on May 28, 2020, said Martin’s use of force was reasonable and warranted during the incident.

“According to Martin and other officers, as well as physical evidence that corroborates their statements, Darrius Carter presented an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to Chief Bobby Martin and other law enforcement officers by driving recklessly in a high-speed chase through the streets of Roanoke Rapids and then directly toward Martin even after being ordered to stop,” Asbell said in a press release that day. “According to the evidence, the threat level that Darrius Carter presented was quickly escalating the closer he came toward him. After a thorough review of the NCSBI report and meeting with NCSBI agents, I have concluded that Chief Martin was legally justified in his use of force. As a result, no criminal charges against Chief Bobby Martin will be filed related to this incident.”

Read the Herald article headlined “Investigation ends: No criminal charges filed on Chief Bobby Martin” at

According to the settlement, Carter, the plaintiff, “contends defendants acted contrary to the laws of North Carolina as alleged in his complaint.”

Carter has a court date on March 27, in Halifax County Superior Court Felony-FLEE/ELUDE ARREST W/MV (F), Traffic-RECKLESS DRIVING TO ENDANGER, Felony-AWDW GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL and an April 10 date for Felony-POSSESSION OF FIREARM BY FELON.

However, the settlement agreement reads the city’s insurance provider, U.S. Specialty Insurance Company, will pay $90,000 to Carter in return for “a General Release of any and all claims made or which could have been made arising from the aforementioned incident or occurrence and hereby releases the City of Roanoke Rapids, Bobby L. Martin Jr., Individually and in his Official Capacity as Chief of Police, and U.S. Specialty Insurance Company, their agents, successors and assigns from any and all liability in this matter.”

City Attorney Davis said the settlement was negotiated by the city’s insurance carrier and paid for by them.

“Only $5,000 of taxpayer funds were expended relative to this incident, and that is for our insurance deductible,” he said. “The city would have to pay this $5,000 deductible whether or not the matter was settled, as the costs of defending the suit would have far exceeded $5,000 in any event. There is absolutely no connection between the December 2019 incident and the settlement of this lawsuit on the one hand, and Chief Martin’s current administrative suspension on the other.”

The agreement was signed by Traynham on Dec. 6, by the insurance company on Dec. 16, and Carter on Jan. 13, which prompted the question of whether the information about the settlement was ever brought before the city council during an open session since it took place a couple of months ago.

Davis said, “No, it did not have to be. Council is aware of the result, but they did not have to vote on it in open session since the money was coming from the insurance company.”