Greensboro officer’s killing sparks questions over alert system

Published 12:10 am Thursday, January 4, 2024

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By Robert Sullivan

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — After an off-duty police officer, Sgt. Philip Dale Nix, was shot and killed on Saturday while attempting to stop a robbery at a Sheetz gas station, the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons issued a Blue Alert notifying law enforcement personnel and the public statewide that the alleged killers had escaped the scene and were still at large. 

The NCCMP’s archives show that Saturday’s alert was the first of its kind in the state, prompting some residents to question what a blue alert actually meant.

“The purpose of the Blue Alert Program is to establish a quick response system designed to issue and coordinate alerts following a violent attack upon a law enforcement officer. The goal of a Blue Alert is to provide immediate information to the public about violent suspects via media broadcasts, and other notification resources to solicit help from the public in the safe and swift apprehension of the suspect,” according to the NCCMP website.

The website also stated that the alert would be broadcasted by local radio and television stations, electronic highway signs and lottery terminals to disseminate detailed information on the suspects in the hopes that the public will be able to assist. North Carolina General Statute 143B-1023 sets the conditions under which a Blue Alert can be issued. The alert can be issued once the following criteria are met:

  1. A law enforcement officer is killed or suffers serious bodily injury.
  2. A law enforcement agency with jurisdiction determines that the suspect poses a threat to the public and other law enforcement personnel and possesses information that may assist in locating the suspect, including information regarding the suspect’s vehicle, complete or partial license plate information, and a detailed description of the suspect, or that a law enforcement officer is missing while on duty under circumstances warranting concern for the law enforcement officer’s safety.
  3. The head of a law enforcement agency with jurisdiction recommends the issuance of a blue alert to the Center.

According to the NCCMP, the Blue Alert system began after federal law was passed requiring nationwide alerts to assist law enforcement. The Rafael Ramos and Winjian Liu National Blue Alert of 2015 was named in honor of two New York City detectives who were killed in 2015. Lue and Ramos were killed by a suspect who posted credible social media threats, the NCCMP website states, and the Blue Alert system was implemented to ensure that information such as threats were immediately given to other law enforcement agencies to provide advance warning.

North Carolina passed the law establishing the state’s own Blue Alert Notification System in 2015, which outlined the criteria and modeled the alerts after the already existing Amber and Silver alerts.


Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office offers support in the wake of Nix’ death

“The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office would like to extend condolences to the Greensboro Police Department after an off-duty sergeant was fatally wounded on Saturday afternoon,” a release said. “Each day, police officers and sheriff’s deputies work to serve and protect the communities they call home. Their dedication to the community continues even when the shift is over. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Greensboro Police Department and the family of the fallen officer.”

Sheriff Bobby F. Kimbrough Jr. added, “May God cover and guide us through these difficult and challenging times.”


Multiple Winston-Salem residents arrested in connection with Nix’s shooting

According to information from the Greensboro Police Department, three suspects have been arrested in connection with Sergeant Nix’s death. 

Jamere Justice Foster, 18, Z’quriah Le’Pearce Blackwell, 18, and John Walter Morrison, 28. Each person was listed as being from Winston-Salem.

Foster is charged with first degree murder, larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny and is held with no bond.

Blackwell is charged with accessory after the fact to first degree murder and is held with a $500,000 bond.

Morrison is charged with accessory after the fact to first degree murder, larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny and is held without bond. 

Additional charges may be forthcoming as the investigation continues. 

The Greensboro Police Department wants to thank the Winston-Salem Police Department for assisting in making these arrests.