“I don’t feel safe” Councilperson Ladel Lewis says at press conference after receiving violent threats against her and her family

By Tom Travis

Update: Since publication Councilpersons Tonya Burns (Ward 6) and Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Ward 5) have emailed statements to EVM. Those comments have been included in this article. Councilperson Quincy Murphy (Ward 3) has told EVM that he has not received a threat. ~ Editor

“Unfortunately we are experiencing some unprecedented events at City Hall. A place that is known as the city center. A place where businesses come to do business with the city and place where the business of the city of Flint takes place has now turned into a place of chaos. A place of tension and confusion. A place that is unsafe. It has become a place of bullying,” Councilperson Ladel Lewis said at a press conference held in council chambers today.

Lewis along with Councilperson Eva Worthing (Ward 9) were notably absent from Wednesday’s city council committee meetings. Lewis said she received an alarming threat via Facebook Messenger on Monday. Both Lewis and Worthing, in a message to EVM, said they were not at Wednesday’s meeting due to the threat.

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Lewis read the statement she recieved on Monday through Facebook Messenger, “We do not want you as our council woman. Better yet take your big a** and your big b**bs and go back to Maryland. You F’n whore. You, Eva and Candace started this mess. You guys make me sick. And I hate you guys. You are a terrible chair [Lewis serves as Vice President of the council and in the absence of a council president chairs Council meetings and she chairs the Special Affairs Committee.] and a horrible human being. I hope some day you will get raped. And I hope you F’n die. Don’t show your face this week because I know where you stand.”

Lewis said the message was from someone she knows but did not want to reveal the name publicly because of an ongoing investigation. Lewis noted the July resignation of then-Council President Allie Herkenroder, in part, due to harassment and threats upon her. Lewis held up a photograph of a resident wearing a t-shirt that some regular attendees of council meetings wear depicting Lewis with the phrase “Handkerchief Head Negro.”

A t-shirt some residents wear to council meetings. (Photo by Tom Travis)


Councilperson Eric Mays (Ward 1) used the term Handkerchief Head Negro in a February 2020 council meeting. In that meeting Mays said, “That’s a black person who bends over backwards to please a white person.”

Lewis added, “I have a family and they didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t sign up to be intimidated or threatened but I really don’t want my small child and my husband to be hurt and harmed because I signed up to help improve the conditions of this city. This is bullying.  This is not okay. It was not okay to do it to the governor, it was not okay to do it to the previous Councilman Maurice Davis…I welcome any opportunity to sit down with anyone to discuss my accomplishments, my record and anything else as well as my vision to move the city forward.”

Resident attends city council carrying an assault weapon

Lewis noted that a resident, Trevor Berryhill, who is married to Councilperson Judy Priestley’s niece, showed up to city council meeting carrying an assault-type military grade rifle. A video was posted to Facebook of Berryhill describing the assault rifle he carried at the city council meetings along with other rifles. The video can be viewed at this link.

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In an email,  Councilperson Priestley (Ward 4) stated,  “I have not received a threat in more than a month. As people have been aware,  I do have a concealed carry permit and I do carry where it is legally permitted at all times.” According to the Genesee County Republican Party (GCRP) website Priestley, who’s also the council’s  Finance Committee Chair, is listed as an elected member of the GCRP.

According to Michigan Open Carry law, there are specific government buildings guns are not permitted like prisons, courthouses and schools. If a gun is legal it is allowed to be carried in other buildings.

Councilperson Worthing responds to threats

Councilperson Eva Worthing (Ward 9), while not present at Friday’s press conference, responded to EVM by email and messenger, saying, “I did not receive the same threat [as Lewis’] but my name was mentioned. I have received many threats through phone, email and Facebook however. I did not come to [Wednesday’s] meeting due to that threat and the fact that because Mayor Neeley put up metal detectors to help us feel safer, people were encouraged to bring their firearms at the meeting. This is exactly why I did not attend. Given that I constantly receive threats, and people were encouraged to bring their weapons, I stayed home.

Councilperson Eva Worthing (Ward 9) in a 2022 meeting. (Photo by Tom Travis)

“Also, I saw Tonya’s live in which she was harassing the mayor’s staff and Mays was yelling at reporters at the mayor’s press conference. That type of energy breeds dysfunction. The meeting became about the metal detectors and not about the business of the city. Certain council members bring supporters to the meetings and we are constantly screamed at. However, those same council people defend their behavior and say they are allowed to heckle us during our meeting even though our rules state the exact opposite. So instead of being concerned about how their behavior is affecting our meetings and making them dangerous, they encourage misbehavior by audience members that agree with them. This is a hostile work environment purposefully created to try to make council members like Lewis and I quit so they can replace us with members who will vote their way.”

Since publication more council members have given EVM statements. Those statements are recorded below. – Editor

Mayor Neeley joins Councilperson Lewis

An emotional Lewis was joined by Mayor Sheldon Neeley in the press conference. The Mayor denounced any threat or threat of violence. He noted the metal detectors that were installed at the door of council chambers. It was unclear if an officer refused anyone from entering if the detector was set off. The resident with the military grade assault rifle was allowed to enter even though the detector was set off. The Mayor added that there have been more mass shootings in the country so far than there are days in the year, more than 560 in 2023.

Earlier the Mayor had released this statement about the metal detectors he had placed in City Hall.

“As mayor, my job is to ensure that the work of government can proceed without officials and citizens fearing for their safety. The January 6 insurrection showed us the dangers of what happens when armed people threaten the work of government, and that threats can turn to violence at a moment’s notice.

“The metal detectors were installed before the Flint City Council committee meeting this week as a proactive tool, so that public safety personnel could be aware of firearms in the room. We should have the ability to know if someone is walking into a place of government with a gun.

“Logistically, we placed a metal detector outside the council chambers to make the best use of limited personnel and resources. The people who do the work of government in the city council chambers have been threatened, so this is where we need to direct our resources.

“I believe that people should be able to lead and participate in government without fearing for their safety. My goal is to ensure the safety of our councilmembers and the public to participate in the democratic process. I will not back down from that. This is not about gun rights; this is about safety,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley stated.

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Burns’ statement to EVM

“I personally feel that the chambers was and is a safe place for residents,” Burns told EVM in an email. Burns referenced two incidents at council meetings one in which former Mayor Stanley’s daughter was assaulted in the council chambers by Councilperson Worthing. Burns says that Worthing hit Stanley’s daughter. “There was no outrage,” said Burns.

Then Councilperson Pfeiffer made a comment during a recent council meeting where he referred to another councilperson as a “monkey.” Burns told EVM, “I would encourage you to ask those who made claims of threats did they report it to the police and obtain a complaint report? What I do know is that Councilperson Pfeiffer’s family has been threatened for him making a “Freudian slip” that was immediately corrected as he was speaking to the issue and not the person.”

“The Flint Police have always done a great job protecting the public but it has unfortunately been our current councilmembers who are overly aggressive and shown violent tendencies toward the public and other council members as Councilperson Eva Worthing has incited violence against me twice on May 3 and July 19,” Burns told EVM in an emailed statement.

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Winfrey-Carter’s statement to EVM

Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter told EVM in an email that she has not received any threats to her life. Winfrey-Carter added, “Despite the claims of Councilwoman Lewis in her recent press conference. I’ve been attending council meetings for nearly seven years, and I’ve always felt absolutely safe in the council chambers.” Both Burns and Winfrey-Carter encouraged the media to look into police reports made against Councilperson Lewis. EVM has reached out to the Flint Police Department for these reports.

“I will continue to work tirelessly…” Lewis stated

“I will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the north side until the residents say otherwise,”  Lewis stated. “I stand with the mayor to do all things necessary to restore order and restore safety to our council chambers. It is our goal to make council chambers a place where the business of the city can take place in a bully free environment.

“I know I’m not the only one that has been bullied and I know that bullying will not stop with me,”  she added, “so if you or anyone else you know is a victim of bullying please do not take this lightly.  Your mental and physical health depends on it. You can call or text 988 or go to stopbullying.gov for information. You also can reach out to our local mental health providers such as Genesee Health System (GHS).” GHS crisis phone numbers is 810-257-3840.

Lewis encouraged those who are experiencing threats as she did to reach out local and federal law enforcement for help.

EVM Editor Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com

Author: Tom Travis

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