Orange County sheriff’s deputies say a Burlington man violated pandemic orders issued by Governor Roy Cooper when he hosted a New Year’s Eve tent bash attended by about 100 people.
Officers have charged Jacob Alfred Kurtis Bethea, 30, with violating an executive order that limits the number of guests in an outdoor gathering to 50 people, according to a Friday press statement from the sheriff’s office.
The investigators also charged Bethea with violating coronavirus orders by opening and operating an entertainment venue.
Bethea’s arrest on Thursday night was not the first time he had violated the governor’s coronavirus orders.
Deputies also served Bethea with an outstanding warrant from Guilford County in connection to an event there in September, according to the sheriff’s office statement.
Sheriff’s deputies shut down the New Years revelry and took Bethea into custody Thursday night after receiving a report of “a large tent” at the Palmers Grove Community Center on Palmers Grove Church Road in Hillsborough.
“Once on scene, they found approximately 100 people attending a New Year’s Eve party,” according to the statement.
Deputies say Bethea advertised the big-tent event as “New Years in the Valley,” through social media.
He dubbed it “the biggest New Year’s party in the state,” according to the release.
An Eventbrite post for “New Years in the Valley” bearing the same slogan and located in Hillsborough promoted the event as including a “$1,000 twerk contest.” The listed event price is “$0 – $400” and “Self Wave Entertainment” is named as the organizer. Self Wave’s Eventbrite profile page lists 78 past events, more than a dozen of them since the pandemic started, ranging from a lingerie party in Durham to an “open bar Halloween mansion costume party” in Chapel Hill. The overwhelming majority were scheduled in Durham.
Another event described as the “Interstate-40 Freaknik: The Biggest Party in NC” was scheduled for Teague Street in Greensboro on September 19. It wasn’t immediately clear if the event was the cause of Bethea’s outstanding warrant from September in Guilford County (which includes Greensboro).
Investigators reported that party attendees who purchased tickets online were then given the address of the gathering.
Among the partygoers were about 10 people carrying semi-automatic weapons, while providing security for the event.
“One also carried an AR-15,” the statement said.
There has been an enormous and mixed response on social media following the raid and shutdown of the party. Well over 1,000 people had posted comments on the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page following news Friday of Bethea’s arrest.
“This is irritating,” wrote Danielle Sheperd. “I respect the police with every bone in my body but this over steps on so many levels!! Sad day for this country that we have been stripped of our rights…we no longer live in a free country! So glad my husband and other’s [sic] fought for those rights for it to be useless!”
Terri Buckner posted a reply to Shepherd.
“You do not have the right to transmit disease to others,” she wrote.
A deluge of comments on the post slammed law enforcement and hailed Bethea as a hero. Jonathan Shannon expressed a common sentiment on the thread.
“I #BackTheBlue, however every deputy that went along with this should be fired,” he wrote, “and if it were up to me, you should also be charged with treason.”
Others, like Gina Rogers-Rhinehart, took a more comical approach.
“So who was it at the Sheriff’s office or their family that couldn’t get a ticket & decided to go all Boss Hog on folks in a TENT having a party on New Years Eve?” Rogers-Rhinehart wrote.
Some of the 1,600 comments simply thanked law enforcement. Others were more off the wall.
“Do your officers wear man-buns and skinny pants too?” Betsy Ball Clark wrote. “Please re-educate your staff on the difference between the Constitution of the United States, and illegal rogue executive orders that are being held by a dictatorial state administration without the legal requirement of the Council of State.”
For his part, Bethea seemed to revel in the spotlight. On his apparent Facebook account, Bethea shared an article about the party and arrest, captioning it: “Man I Made The News Last Night Yes I Got Locked For Throwing My People A Party But I Don’t Care It’s Fucking New Years We Got To Have Fun.”
Leading up to New Year’s Eve, his Facebook timeline was filled with announcements and promotions for the party. On January 2, Bethea also shared a post from someone calling him “a legend” for the incident, and posted a GoFundMe link organized to help cover his legal fees on his Facebook story. The Facebook profile says he lives in Chapel Hill.
Bethea was released from custody following a written promise to appear in court. His initial court date is set for March 1.
Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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