June 1, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Redneck Standoff At The Traveler’s Inn

This article was originally posted on February 9, 2014, on winstonwatchman.org. It’s the story of a petty criminal and a massive, disproportionate mobilization of local police to bring him into custody. 

 

Just before midnight on Sunday, February 2,  as the good folks of Northwest North Carolina were in bed asleep in preparation for the work week ahead, the King City Police Department confronted Christopher Jenkins at the Waffle House in King. What happened next lead to a redneck standoff that would last for 29 hours at a cheap motel on University Parkway and briefly capture the imagination of the city of Winston.

It was a little surreal to see how quickly a simple police matter can escalate into a standoff. The real story was not the redneck and his supposed “hostage” little brother in a motel room, but the overwhelming show of force on the part of the Winston-Salem Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies.

After all, the WSPD wasn’t dealing with the Branch Davidians. The suspect wasn’t hiding in a sprawling complex, he was in a cheap motel room with one way in and one way out. So why the massive display of force? And why didn’t the throngs of press assembled at the scene question the WSPD’s needless escalation of the situation?

It all started when Christopher Jenkins pulled into the Waffle House in King just before midnight on Sunday, February 2. King City Police officers claim to have seen drugs in Jenkins’ car. Jenkins fled the scene and drove his car onto Highway 52.

To avoid being apprehended, reportedly Jenkins called 911 while he was being chased and told the dispatcher that he would shoot his “hostage” if the KCPD and Surry County Sheriff’s Office continued to pursue him. The police, instead of calling Jenkins’ bluff wisely called off their pursuit.

The next morning the WSPD got a tip that Jenkins was at the Traveler’s Inn on University Parkway. Which means Jenkins decided to hideout roughly 8 miles from where he was first observed. Why he didn’t drive a little further is anyone’s guess. At 10:46 am on Monday the WSPD attempted to serve a warrant on Jenkins. It looks like the WSPD weren’t very subtle. Jenkins caught sight of the officers about to deploy in front of his motel and he once again called 911.

Jenkins, who appears to be just smart enough to get himself in trouble, but not smart enough to get himself out of trouble told the police that he knew the WSPD were outside his door and that he would not hesitate to shoot any police officers who tried to get into his room. Jenkins also stated that he had a hostage and demanded that the police leave the area.

The redneck standoff would last for another 28 hours. According to the Camel City Dispatch and the Winston-Salem Journal, about 200 law-enforcement officers from various Triad agencies were deployed during the two-day standoff. We’re talking about a small army of local SWAT teams at the Traveler’s Inn. Armored vehicles were deployed, a sniper was positioned on a nearby rooftop for god’s sake; this is what disproportionate force looks like. Folks, this is what a police state looks like.

An FBI negotiator was called in to talk to the suspect. The SBI was also on the scene. Then they decided to wait out Mr. Jenkins. They brought his mom in to try to persuade him to end the standoff. That failed. The police refused to give Jenkins any food, but they didn’t cut the utilities to his room off.

Jenkins, in another dumb move on his part, is reported to have called WXII’s Newsroom “more than once” telling the station that he had guns and plenty of ammo. The truth is that Jenkins appears to only have had one handgun. Eventually, Andrew Menijvar, Jenkins’ younger brother who appears to have been less of a “hostage” than a running mate of Jenkins emerged from room 108 on Tuesday afternoon.

Then a then a few hours later Christopher Jenkins emerged from Traveler’s Inn room 108 on Tuesday afternoon February 4 and surrendered to police after a show of force by one of the SWAT teams on the scene, thus ending the almost 29-hour standoff.

Jenkins had outstanding warrants for three counts of felony aggravated sexual assault in Virginia and has an outstanding order for arrest in Forsyth County, in addition to facing charges of making harassing phone calls and assault on a female in Forsyth County. Reading the Journal’s account of Christopher Jenkins criminal history one gets the impression that Christopher Jenkins is a pretty bad guy. The kind of guy who would probably take a swing at you for calling him, Christopher. Ok, ok, it’s Chris-I got it.

Chis Jenkins is a petty thug and an unsophisticated criminal. I have no doubt that he was making life hell for his former girlfriend (extorting $18,000 to pay his drug dealers), but Chris Jenkins was hardly public enemy number one. He looks to me to be a petty thief with a violent streak whose crimes have progressed in no small part due to his drug addiction.

Jenkins arrest got out of hand quickly. Would it have been possible for the King Police Department to have apprehended Jenkins when he wasn’t behind the wheel of a car? Or better yet, why didn’t King Police Department set up a sting at the local Walmart? If Jenkins eats at the Waffle House you can bet that he also shops at Walmart. Why not nab him at the local Walmart when his guard was down? But instead, a chance meeting at the King Waffle House led to a huge standoff that lasted for almost 29-hours and cost taxpayers untold amounts of money for the 200 men, multi-agency police force that camped out and waited for Jenkins to surrender.

It speaks well of recently promoted WSPD Chief Rountree that no shots were fired and the standoff ended peacefully. The standoff on Reynolds Park Road under Chief Cunningham didn’t end so peacefully. But why were around 200 law enforcement officers deployed to stand down one redneck with a handgun? The media needs to question, instead of cheer on the local police.

When there is armed gunman running around I’m glad to have local law enforcement out there to meet such threats, but they need to use appropriate force. Surely a deployment of several cops could have just waited Jenkins out. There was no need to assemble an army just to bring one redneck and his “hostage” brother/running-mate into custody.

 

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