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Digest Afternoon Observer | Black Latino & workers had to play ‘Russian Roulette’ during COVID + Reward offered for Union murder info

It’s Wednesday, Charlotte. This is Kristen. It’s never too early to plan ahead to the weekend, right? If you’re getting ready to fill your social calendar with entertaining programming, allow CharlotteFive’s Jessica Swannie to assist with the most recent roundup of things to do around town. From June 11-17, she’s got you covered here.

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Now, let’s talk about today’s headlines:

1. Black & Latino NC workers had to play ‘Russian Roulette’ during COVID. The toll was steep.

Travis Long
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Rigoberto Cabrera Lopez was an indigenous Guatemalan who loved spending time outdoors. He worked at a meat processing plant east of Fayetteville, and he was among COVID-19’s first victims in North Carolina. He died on May 5, 2020.

“I didn’t think that this would happen, since most people get sick, and not to the point of dying, like my husband did,” his wife, Tomasa Cabrera, told a reporter in Spanish. “I thought he would recover, but he didn’t.”

According to NC’s 2020 mortality file — built from official death certificates — more than 8,300 North Carolinians died of COVID-19 last year. To find out more, Charlotte Observer and News & Observer reporters Gavin Off, Ames Alexander and Aaron Sánchez-Guerra analyzed the death records of working-age coronavirus victims in search of any patterns.

Here’s what they found:

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of Black and 16% of Latino employees were able to work from home last year. 30% of white employees were able to work from home, as reported in this story. Read our analysis to learn more about what our reporters found.

2. Gov. Cooper offering reward for information on Union County murder

Joshua Tramaine Allen, 33, was found dead in a wooded area in Wingate on Feb. 9, the Union County Sheriff’s Office said. He was last seen alive in Marshville on Jan. 23 after being reported missing Jan. 25, according to Gov. Roy Cooper and the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

Now, a $5,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible, Gov. Cooper announced Wednesday.

Do you know anything? Authorities ask that you call the Union County Sheriff’s Office at 704-283-3789, the State Bureau of Investigation at 919-662-4500 or the Union County Crime Stoppers at 704-283-5600.

3. Residents, grieving families call for action to slow extreme speeders in NC

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Khadejeh Nikouyeh

On Sept. 24, 1994, Patty Bennett died in a Mustang convertible. The driver of the Mustang was going 75 mph on a two-lane country road, and lost control at a curve and slammed into a ditch, according to a Highway Patrol report. Since then, according to Bennett’s father, Doug, North Carolina’s speeding problem has only gotten worse. On I-485, “no matter what time of day, the NASCAR wannabes are out there,” he said.

Doug was among readers who responded to “Death in the Fast Lane,” a recent investigation by the Charlotte Observer and News & Observer’s Ames Alexander and Richard Stradling that demonstrated how extreme speeders cause havoc on NC highways — and how state officials allow it to happen. In this new story, readers weigh in on the issue and express their feelings about the highway practice and how they think it might be changed.

4. New Lidl coming to Charlotte

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A new Lidl store will open this month in University City. It’ll be the ninth in the Charlotte area.

The details, with the Observer’s Catherine Muccigrosso.

5. NC closer to ban on popular ‘Carolina Squat’ car lifts, modifications

Truck and SUV owners may soon be unable to modify their cars in the “Carolina Squat” style if a bill attempting to ban the practice passes through the North Carolina Senate, as reported by the Observer’s Jonathan Limehouse. The modification style entails lifting the front of the vehicle while leaving the back untouched or lowering it, Austin Carrigan, head of sales for Carolina Custom, told the Observer.

If House Bill 692 is made law:

The North Carolina House of Representatives passed the bill on May 6. The Senate passed the first reading of bill on May 10. If the Senate passes the bill, the ban would become effective on Dec. 1.


That’s all for today, folks. If you don’t already, subscribe to The Charlotte Observer here. If you’re already a subscriber (thanks!), download our iOS or Android app to get connected.

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This story was originally published July 26, 2021 12:41 PM.

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