The family of Jovontay Avery Williams is mourning his loss and fighting for answers after he passed away in police custody earlier this month. Learn more in the story by Jonathan Limehouse at The Charlotte Observer below.
Christa Williams says no one told her how her son, Jovontay, died.
“The information that I have is nothing,” Williams told The Charlotte Observer on Friday. “I don’t know if my son has been shot, strangled or anything.”
Jovontay Avery Williams, 32, died while in custody at Northeast Medical Center on Monday, June 13, hours after an early morning encounter with police, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said.
Around 2 a.m. on June 13, police responded to a report of shots fired into a home in the 300 block of Featherstone Drive in northeast Charlotte. Neighbors alerted officers to Williams, who was seen yelling and acting “erratically” behind another home, CMPD said.
“He wasn’t really actively communicating with officers,” police Lt. Bryan Crum said during a news conference last week.
Officers tried to calm Williams down before using a “soft, empty hands” technique to detain him after he tried to force his way into another home, Crum said.
A “soft-empty hands” technique means officers do not use weapons or strikes, a police spokesman told the Observer last week. Officers will use their hands, pressure points, an arm bar or a clinch to move a suspect’s hands behind their back to be handcuffed, the spokesman said.
Williams was taken to Atrium Health University hospital in “life-threatening condition” before being transferred to Northeast for “more intensive care,” police said. CMPD, however, has not released a cause of death nor details about Williams’ condition.
CMPD referred the Observer to the State Bureau of Investigation about Williams’ condition during and after the incident.
SBI spokesperson Anjanette Grube told the Observer in an email that the investigation is ongoing and the medical examiner would determine the cause of death.
Officers found a firearm and drug paraphernalia at the scene, CMPD said in a news release.
“Suspected narcotics” were discovered near Williams, Crum said.
Police told Christa Williams they found a “white powdery substance” laying in the grass beside her son, she said.
“My son isn’t like that,” Williams said.
‘WE WANT TO GET FACTS’
Christa Williams said Jovontay called her every day, including the Sunday morning before his death.
She told the Observer that police informed her of his death following the news conference.
“They called me after announcing my son’s name on TV,” she said. “They not supposed to put his name out before the family knows.”
A CMPD news release sent at 3 p.m. that Monday says Jovontay Williams’ next of kin was notified of his death, but it does not indicate when that happened.
CMPD declined to say when Christa Williams was notified and referred the Observer to the SBI.
The only thing Christa Williams said she knows for sure is that her son died with a medical problem, which he never had a history of.
“Jovontay, myself and my family are not the kind of people that’s just gonna get out here and make a nuisance of ourselves,” Williams said. “We want to get facts.”
Williams’ son did not hang around a lot of people, she said. He only had three best friends. He was a “loner,” Williams said, which is why she does not understand why he was “on a street she never heard of.”
“My son don’t know nobody in that area that I know of,” Williams said.
Williams said her son, his girlfriend and 3-year-old son had moved into a west Charlotte apartment the week before his death.
Williams said her son was not perfect. He drank, smoked marijuana and had some prior run-ins with law enforcement as a teenager, she said.
A background check of Jovontay Williams also shows traffic offenses in North Carolina and a 2016 felony larceny charge that was dismissed. He also was charged with misdemeanor drug offenses in DeKalb County, Georgia, from 2007 to 2009. Williams also was charged with felony possession of a knife or firearm during commission of or attempt to commit a certain crime in 2007. All his cases are settled, records show.
ALL-AMERICAN AT JCSU
Jovontay Williams, a native of Charlotte, played football at Johnson C. Smith University, an historically Black university, from 2012 to 2014. As a junior defensive lineman in 2013, he earned Division II All-American honors — the school’s first All-American since De’Audra Dix in 2008.
“He came to us very passionate about the game,” Williams’ coach, Steven Aycock, told the Observer.
Aycock says Williams taught him about “humility” and “patience” — two principles he will always cherish.
“He was one of mine,” Aycock said. “He was a solid individual who would do anything for you. That’s just who Jovontay was.”
The former Golden Bulls coach described Williams’ smile as “infectious,” and heralded him as “a man of his word.”
“He was a fine young man,” Aycock said.
Williams received an invitation to the Carolina Panthers’ rookie mini camp in 2015.
We didn’t get a chance to talk on a monthly basis, but like I do with all my former players, when they run across your heart, you check on them right then,” said Aycock, now the deputy commissioner for Atlanta’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
The two last spoke through messages on Instagram, and Aycock said Williams told him about how he had become a new father. Williams loved his family, especially his mother and baby sister, Aycock said.
“He loved his mother and his sister unconditionally to the moon and beyond” he said. “That was a different love.”
‘A SAD SITUATION’
Steve Joyner Sr., athletic director at JCSU, said the Charlotte school is “saddened” by Williams’ death.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jovontay’s family and friends,” he said in a statement to the Observer. “We also lift up residents of the community where the incident occurred.”
“It’s a sad situation for both sides,” Aycock said. “The city of Charlotte and his family.”
Christa Williams said she’ll have to keep relying on the news to find out what happened to her son because no one is telling her anything.
At a news conference on Featherstone Drive on Monday, Williams said figuring out and dealing with her son’s death has “been hell,” WBTV reported.
The SBI is investigating Williams’ death because it happened while he was in police custody, police said. CMPD Internal Affairs also is reviewing the involved officers’ actions, Crum said. A criminal investigation for the gunshots also is underway, police said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Williams family pay for funeral costs.