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A "Kumbaya" moment seems unlikely. As the criminal cases against Jordan Kita and Austin Wood unfolded, the Shepards filed a

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Publish Date : 2021-03-27 12:54:38
A "Kumbaya" moment seems unlikely. As the criminal cases against Jordan Kita and Austin Wood unfolded, the Shepards filed a

A "Kumbaya" moment seems unlikely. As the criminal cases against Jordan Kita and Austin Wood unfolded, the Shepards filed a


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(CNN)An African American mother says she won't sit down to talk with two men who came armed with about 13 other White people to her North Carolina home last year looking for a missing teenage girl -- and she doesn't care that a court acquitted them.

Still, lawyers for the two men say they not only want the families to come together and sort out what they believe is a misunderstanding, but their clients also want an apology from Monica Shepard and her teen son, Dameon, as well as from their family's lawyers, for comments they feel painted their clients as racists.
A "Kumbaya" moment seems unlikely. As the criminal cases against Jordan Kita and Austin Wood unfolded, the Shepards filed a civil lawsuit likening the group to Ku Klux Klan night riders and demanding, among other relief, more than $25,000 in damages, legal fees and "training concerning the history of racism and mob violence" for those who came to their home in May.
The case's developments highlight the canyon between perceptions in an incident that reminded many of the nation's troubling history on race relations.
Following the May 3 encounter in Pender County, a short drive northeast of Wilmington, many tuning in to the story labeled the White men bigots, the mob racially driven. Neither was true, the attorneys say, and they blame the Shepards and their legal team for perpetuating that perception.
The attorneys acknowledge that their clients, Kita and Wood, were armed, that Kita was wearing his law enforcement uniform outside his jurisdiction and the pair were among 15 people who went to the wrong home in the middle of the night wanting to know the whereabouts of a missing girl.
They're also aware of the history of racially charged mob violence in the South, but the lawyers told CNN that the facts show the group's actions were merely the product of concern for the missing girl -- and the Shepards should apologize now that the details have emerged.
Neighbors and police gather after the group arrived at the Shepards' home in Pender County on May 3.
Neighbors and police gather after the group arrived at the Shepards' home in Pender County on May 3.
Yet Monica Shepard remains unmoved by pleas the episode was a reconcilable misunderstanding.
The Shepards' lawsuit -- filed by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in January, before state Judge Chad Hogston acquitted the two men -- accuses "the mob" of trespassing, brandishing weapons and harassing and intimidating the Shepards. A news release alleges the group "committed racialized terror when they approached and menaced a Black family in their North Carolina home."
"I've said this before: It's about accountability," the mother told CNN. "You can't just form a mob and go around being vigilante citizens. There's laws against that. I'm not interested in sitting down. It's all about accountability at the end of the day."
Online tip led to Shepard's neighborhood, lawyer says
Kita was a deputy with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office. Wood was his neighbor. Hogston acquitted both men February 18, following a trial that spanned more than 10 hours and 14 witnesses, said Wood's attorney, Woody White.
Wood had been charged with going armed to the terror of the public. Kita was fired after being charged with forcible trespass, breaking and entering and willful failure to discharge duties. The pair teamed up May 3 after Kita's sister -- a cousin whom his parents reared and whom he considers a sibling -- vanished.
The biracial 15-year-old was troubled, possibly suicidal, and the Kitas, including dad Timothy and mom Mary, were frantically searching for her, family attorney James Rutherford said.
Mary Kita, center, and Timothy Kita, right, are fearful when their children, who they asked not be named, leave the house. Jordan Kita stands between his parents. The missing girl is not pictured. 
Mary Kita, center, and Timothy Kita, right, are fearful when their children, who they asked not be named, leave the house. Jordan Kita stands between his parents. The missing girl is not pictured.
Despite being out of his jurisdiction, Kita wore his New Hanover County deputy's uniform and firearm during the visit to the Shepards' home around 10 p.m.
Pender County authorities, including at least three law enforcement officers and an off-duty fireman who deployed a drone, joined the effort, which moved from a wooded area to a nearby subdivision, Rutherford said. When a 10-year-old heard on a chat in the online game, Fortnite, that the girl might be at a boy's home in Pender County's Avendale neighborhood, the group headed for the middle-class, mostly White enclave where the Shepards live, the lawyer said.
Though they were at the wrong house, Kita and Wood didn't know the Shepards' race before approaching the door, White said.
A key allegation is disputed
What happened next is far from agreed upon. Dameon Shepard, who was 18 and set to graduate from Laney High School, answered the door and was taken aback to see the deputy and about 14 others, including Wood, he has told CNN. Wood was near the street with a rifle hanging from his neck, his lawyer said.
Dameon Shepard told the group he wasn't the young man they sought, who attended Topsail High School, he said. He pointed them to a yard sign congratulating him by name on his coming graduation from Laney High.
Monica Shepard was asleep. The encounter woke her, she said, and she went to the door and reiterated what Dameon had said: The group had the wrong house.
A sign congratulating Dameon Shepard on his high school graduation sits on the family's lawn in May. 
A sign congratulating Dameon Shepard on his high school graduation sits on the family's lawn in May.
The Shepards say Kita wedged his foot in the door, preventing them from closing it -- which Kita denies. Kita testified he hastily left work to find his sister and didn't mean to leverage his uniform, Rutherford said. He was so d



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