Biden meets for hours with families of fallen law enforcement officers in Charlotte during NC trip

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Thursday, May 2, 2024
Charlotte shooting: President Joe Biden visits families of officers killed in North Carolina standoff
President Joe Biden will visit families of the officers killed in Charlotte standoff that happened on Monday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Joe Biden detoured to Charlotte on Thursday to meet the families of law enforcement officers shot to death on the job, just a week after he sat down with the grieving relatives of two cops killed in upstate New York.

Biden was headed to a speech in Wilmington, North Carolina, and added on the visit to see the families, as well as officers officers wounded in the shooting.

The meeting lasted about two hours and took place with little fanfare behind closed doors, as the White House wanted Biden to be seen as respecting the privacy of grieving families and avoiding the appearance of using their grief for political purposes.

The president took a short motorcade across the airport to the North Carolina Air National Guard base to meet the group, which included elected officials. The location was an alternative to traveling into the city and was chosen as the least taxing one for local law enforcement officers who are still reeling from the deaths but who would have a hand in securing the president's trip.

Once again, Biden was seeking to be an empathetic leader for a community reeling from gun violence, while also calling for stricter rules around firearms and more money for law enforcement on the front lines.

Four officers were killed this week in North Carolina, when a wanted man opened fire on a joint agency task force that had come to arrest him on a warrant for possession of a firearm as an ex-felon, and fleeing to elude capture. They were: Sam Poloche and William Elliott of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Officer Joshua Eyer; and Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks.

Four other officers were wounded in the gunfire; the suspect was killed. An AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a 40-caliber handgun and ammunition were found at the scene.

An AR-15 is among the weapons most often used in mass shootings, and it's the type of gun Biden is talking about when he says the U.S. should ban " assault weapons." Congress passed the most comprehensive gun control legislation in decades in 2022, after a horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. But it didn't go far enough, Biden often says.

And as he campaigns for the 2024 election, Biden has made curbing gun violence a major campaign platform, elusive to Democrats even during the Obama era, as he fends off attacks from Republican challenger Donald Trump that he is soft on crime and anti-police.

Biden said this week in a statement after the North Carolina killings that the U.S. must "do more to protect our law enforcement officers. That means funding them - so they have the resources they need to do their jobs and keep us safe."

The violence came just about two weeks after another fatal shooting of law enforcement officers in Syracuse, New York; Lieutenant Michael Hoosock and Officer Michael Jensen were killed while looking for a driver who fled a traffic stop. After his speech, Biden met relatives of both of the officers' families.

Biden had already been scheduled to come to Syracuse to celebrate Micron Technology's plans to build a campus of computer chip factories, but the local police union said officers were still coming to terms with the deaths and weren't happy with the president's trip and had hoped he would delay.

On Thursday, Biden will also travel on to Wilmington, where he's announcing his administration is providing states an additional $3 billion to replace lead pipes across the country, building on $5.8 billion for water infrastructure projects around the country announced in February.

Money for the pipe replacement comes from one of the administration's key legislative victories, the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden signed in 2021. The infrastructure law includes over $50 billion to upgrade America's water infrastructure.

The new round of funding will help pay for projects nationwide as Biden seeks to replace all lead pipes in the country.

EPA estimates that North Carolina has 370,000 lead pipes, and $76 million will go to replace them statewide. Biden also will meet with faculty and students at a Wilmington school that replaced a water fountain with high levels of lead with money from the law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.