Afternoon Observer | New Publix coming to Charlotte + Exclusive interview with Hornets’ Gordon Hayward

Hey, Charlotte. It’s almost Friday! This is Kristen, here with some positive news — more than 50% of adults in North Carolina have received the COVID vaccine. “This is a significant milestone toward our goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19 and bringing summer back to North Carolina,” said DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen in a press release. Are you one of the adults who’ve been vaccinated? What do you plan to do this summer now that you’re immune? Let me know.

One more thing while you’re here: Are you digging this newsletter? Tell me what’s on your mind. We’d love to hear what you think about the Afternoon Observer.

Now, let’s get into today’s news:

1. Another Publix is coming to Charlotte

Publix supermarket chain is opening another Charlotte store at Arboretum.
Publix supermarket chain is opening another Charlotte store at Arboretum.

A new option for grocery runs is coming to South Charlotte. Publix will open another store in Charlotte as the local grocery market heats up.

The details:

  • The Florida-based grocer signed a lease at Arboretum.

  • An opening date has not yet been set.

  • Several other grocery stores are expanding their reach in Charlotte, from Farmstead to Food Lion.

  • Publix has plans to open at least four other Charlotte-area stores, as reported by the Observer’s Catherine Muccigrosso.

  • Publix has 22 stores in the Charlotte region.

2. Charlotte Hornets’ Gordon Hayward talks recovery, playoff push

Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward directs his teammates during first half action against the Chicago Bulls on Friday, January 22, 2021. Hayward led the team in scoring with 34 points in the teamÕs 123-110 loss to the Bulls.
Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward directs his teammates during first half action against the Chicago Bulls on Friday, January 22, 2021. Hayward led the team in scoring with 34 points in the teamÕs 123-110 loss to the Bulls.

Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward doesn’t know if his right foot will recover in time for him to play again this season.

“I’m optimistic and hopeful that I will,” Hayward said in an interview Thursday with The Observer — his first interview since the injury. “Things can change fast. I’m working every day to try to get back as fast as I can. But I can’t make any promises one way or the other.”

He’s been out since April 2 with a right foot sprain suffered in a game against the Indiana Pacers. What are the chances he could play this season? And what are the Hornets’ chances in the playoffs if he can’t play? Learn more in this exclusive from The Observer’s Rick Bonnell.

3. New Mecklenburg budget emphasizes environment, housing, education

Mecklenburg’s 2022 budget is $1.99 billion, and it prioritizes racial equity for a second year. More than $10 million going to education, arts programming, county staffing and other initiatives would address disparities among Black and brown residents across Mecklenburg, County Manager Dena Diorio said Thursday morning as she presented budget recommendations. Racial equity, Diorio said, “will intersect with all other board priorities to ensure that every initiative, program and partnership is viewed with an equity lens.”

County commissioners will vote on the budget next month, which grew by 5% compared to the current year. For more of the nitty-gritty details of the budget proposal, check out this breakdown by the Observer’s Alison Kuznitz.

4. After allegedly running from authorities, NC man connected to Capitol riot gave himself up

Brad Bennett, a Huntersville resident, was allegedly on the run from the FBI — leaving false trails, going dark on social media, staying on friends’ couches. Why? On March 19, federal prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with his alleged role in the violent Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.

Prosecutors say Bennett avoided capture for about three weeks before turning himself in in Charlotte on April 12. He now faces six charges — five misdemeanors and a felony. His arrest is one of 400 that have been made since the riots. Next, he’ll go back to D.C., as ordered by a federal judge, to be placed in the custody of U.S. marshals.

Learn more about the saga with the Observer’s Michael Gordon.

5. Family of teen killed at NC mall files wrongful death suit

13-year-old Aveanna Propst died on Dec. 28, 2019 after she was caught in a shootout in the Concord Mills mall parking lot near Dave & Buster’s. Her family is now taking on the mall and its owner, among others, for wrongful death, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cabarrus County.

What happened?

  • Multiple teens were having a shootout inside the mall, as reported by the Observer’s Jonathan Limehouse.

  • Aveanna and her older sister were shopping for sneakers when a stray bullet hit her.

  • 2 of the teens were charged with murder in connection to her death in January 2020, the lawsuit said.

“I’m traumatized,” Aveanna’s mother, Daniale Mackin said. “We lost her to senseless crime, and nobody’s done nothing about it.”

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