Cover Photo: Booking photo for Mecklenberg County Jail Detention Officer Kyle Harris
By Sarah Ahmed
On Monday, June 7, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police arrested Kyle Harris, a detention officer with the Mecklenburg County Jail, for repeatedly sexually assaulting Heaven Gilliland, a transgender woman inmate, last month. Since May, the same jail has seen two deaths of inmates in their custody and is facing increased denunciations and protests by the families of victims and activists.
Gilliland first accused Harris on May 20. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office responded by placing Harris on paid administrative leave the next day. So far, no details of the sexual assault have been released. Gilliland’s family has spoken out in order to rally support for her, as she faces further legal persecution by the state even after her assault.
Sheriff Garry McFadden announced Harris’s firing on Monday afternoon, after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police charged him with three counts of second-degree sexual offense, one count of attempted second-degree sexual offense, two counts of sexual battery, and one count of a sexual act by a government employee. Harris was released on $60,000 unsecured bond the same day.
Harris sexually assaulted Gilliland while she was awaiting trial in the Mecklenburg County Jail last month. Jail records show that Gilliland was transferred from Mecklenburg County Jail to Gaston County Jail on Tuesday, May 25.
Gilliland, who was temporarily out of jail on house arrest, had planned to speak at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon after Harris’s arrest, but was herself arrested by officials from Iredell County for an alleged probation violation. A family spokesperson said the claim underlying the alleged violation is incorrect, because Gilliland was in Gaston County Jail when she allegedly violated parole.
An activist in contact with Gilliland’s family told Tribune that Iredell County Jail is preventing Gilliland’s family from seeing her, and holding her without bond. Her family believes her arrest is in retaliation for accusing Harris of sexual assault, and are demanding her immediate release.
In the same month that Harris sexually assaulted Gilliland, two inmates in Mecklenburg County Jail died while in custody. On May 22, jail staff say they found 41-year-old John Devin Haley unresponsive in his cell and pronounced him dead after they failed to revive him. The sheriff’s office claims that Haley died due to a suicide attempt.
Earlier in the month, on May 14, 20-year-old Karon Golightly died under mysterious circumstances in Mecklenburg County Jail while awaiting trial. The sheriff’s office did not inform Golightly’s family of his death until several days later. Lekisha Golightly, his mother, told a bourgeois news outlet that she had video-chatted with her son the night before he died and that he had seemed fine, laughing and joking with his family. “How could this happen? How?” Lekisha asked.
Local activists with Charlotte Uprising and Feed the Movement are organizing a rally and press conference with Gilliland’s family on Sunday, June 13 at 10:30 a.m. at the Mecklenburg County Jail, demanding Gilliland’s immediate release. They are also demanding answers for the other recent deaths at the jail.
Tribune encourages our supporters to donate to a fundraiser organized by Gilliland’s family, by sending money to CashApp account $CHANTY123, which belongs to Gilliland’s mother.
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