Gladys Knight’s son accused of tax evasion as restaurants raided

Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles, an Atlanta dining institution that features Southern favorites and is named after the famed singer, was raided on Tuesday after Georgia’s Department of Revenue accused the owner — Knight’s son — of theft and tax evasion.

Shanga Hankerson, Knight’s son and the owner of the three Atlanta-area restaurants, “is accused of stealing over $650,000” in sales taxes and withholding taxes owed to the state, the agency said in a news release.

“After penalties and interest the total exceeds $1 million,” the department said.

“The department further alleges that Hankerson used these funds for personal use.”

Department of Revenue agents executed search warrants at the three restaurant locations and a corporate office in Riverdale, Georgia, and “unsuccessfully attempted to serve arrest warrants on Shanga Hankerson … at his home,” the agency statement said.

Hankerson was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Tuesday as authorities negotiated terms of his surrender to Georgia authorities, according to the agency’s special investigation director, Josh Waites.

Revenue officials seized Hankerson’s bank accounts and three luxury vehicles, Waites said.

CNN called the office of Hankerson’s Atlanta tax attorney, Josie Walton-Harris. A receptionist issued a statement of “no comment.”

“We are working with Mr. Hankerson’s attorney to have the business up and running again as soon as possible. As soon as a receivership agreement is reached between the state and Hankerson, the restaurant should reopen for business,” Waites said.

The restaurant’s corporate phone line was disconnected. An email inquiry sent to Hankerson received no response.

This is not the first time Hankerson has been in hot water over taxes, agency spokesman William Gaston told CNN.

“He has been in over two dozen payment plans and has defaulted on all of them. It extends to 2013. They have all been for sales and withholding tax,” Gaston said.

Opened in 1997

Knight, a seven-time Grammy winner, is not suspected of any criminal activity in the case against her son.

A statement from her public relations agency sent to CNN read, “Gladys Knight lent her name to her son’s restaurants in the Atlanta area, similar to a celebrity endorsement. Ms. Knight was not involved in any way with the operation of the restaurants and she is sure that her son and his business partners will rectify the situation. As always, her main concern is for her family’s well-being and she is making sure the family has the guidance they need to assess the situation and move forward.”

Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles opened in Atlanta in 1997 and has expanded to three locations.

In February, the downtown location failed its health inspection after it received a 56 total score. A followup review raised the score to 90.

Both Knight and Hankerson discussed the health inspection with CNN affiliate WSB earlier this month. Knight visited the restaurant while she was in town performing at a concert.

Knight told WSB her son called her immediately after the failed inspection and said she was confident in his ability to run the restaurant.

“I’m not trying to get a whooping at home,” Hankerson said, speaking of the restaurant health rating.

“About the people that walk through the doors. I’m just as concerned about them as them buying tickets to come my concerts,” Knight told WSB. “I want to give them the best of who I am.”

CNN’s Jason Morris contributed to this report.

Indiana family sues for excessive force after police allegedly smash car window

— An Indiana family is suing a city and the local police after officers allegedly smashed a car window to stun and arrest a passenger during a traffic stop.

The family said police pulled them over because the two front passengers were not wearing a seat belt on September 24 in Hammond, Indiana.

Both sides argued they feared for their safety during the traffic stop, which was videotaped by a teenager in the car.

The video in question

“I’m scared for my life,” Lisa Mahone’s voice is heard in a video, speaking from the driver’s seat of her car. In the passenger seat, her partner, Jamal Jones, talks to officers gathered outside his door. His window is rolled down only a few inches. “I don’t know what’s going on,” he says.

Joseph Ivy, 14, and Janiya Ivy, 7, are in the back seat. One of them holds a camera and is recording the exchange.

“Are you going to open the door?” an officer asks Jones.

“How can you say they are not going to hurt you? People are getting shot by the police!” Mahone says before her voice breaks into screams as an officer smashes the passenger window. Jones joins her screams as his body convulses from the electric shock of the stun gun. Officers then pull him out of the car, handcuff him and take him away.

Fear on both sides

Minutes before the incident, the family was driving to the hospital to visit Mahone’s dying mother.

Hammond Police Officers Patrick Vicari and Charles Turner stopped Mahone because neither she nor Jones wore seat belts, according to Hammond Police spokesman Lt. Richard Hoyda.

The officers placed spike strips under the car’s wheels and approached Mahone.

Mahone “informed the officers that her mother was dying and that (they) were on the way to the hospital to see her before she died,” read the complaint. “Rather than issuing Lisa (Mahone) a ticket for failure to wear a seat belt, the officers demanded that Jamal (Jones), the passenger, provide the officers with his identification as well.”

But Jones didn’t have an identification. He had previously turned over his license for an unrelated citation. “Jamal offered to show the officers the ticket, which had his information on it but the officers refused,” read the complaint.

Police however tell a different story.

Call to 911

Jones refused to identify himself and repeatedly ignored requests to step out of the car after officers feared he had a weapon, Hoyda said.

“The first officer saw the passenger inside the vehicle drop his left hand behind the center console inside of the vehicle. Fearing for officer safety, the first officer ordered the passenger to show his hands and then repeatedly asked him to exit the vehicle,” Hoyda said.

Meanwhile, Mahone was on the phone with a 911 operator requesting to speak to a supervisor.

‘Fear for their safety’

Mahone, Jones and the children “were in reasonable fear for their safety,” read the complaint. “After a minute or two for no reason, the officers drew their weapons.”

At this point Mahone is heard pleading with someone in the video. “He (Jones) is looking for his information in his book bag. When he goes into his book bag, they pull a gun out. What was the purpose of a gun? And now they ask me to open my door so I can get out. I’m scared. If you can pull out a gun in front of … there is two kids in the back seat.”

Both the Police Department and Hammond are standing by the officers.

“Police officers who make legal traffic stops are allowed to ask passengers inside of a stopped vehicle for identification and to request that they exit a stopped vehicle for the officer’s safety without a requirement of reasonable suspicion,” Hoyda said.

Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr. cited two recent police officer deaths in Indiana as the reason for heightened precautions.

“While I hope that situations like this one can be avoided in the future, I am standing solidly behind the actions of these police officers,” McDermott said.

Mahone was cited for failure to wear a seat belt and a license plate reciprocity violation. Jones was arrested for failure to aid an officer, resisting law enforcement and was also cited for a seat belt violation, according to Hoyda.


In a lawsuit filed this week in the Northern District Court of Indiana, Mahone, Jones and the two children accuse the city, Vicari, Turner and “other unknown officers” of excessive force, false arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, and Intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Hammond Police directly all media inquiries to the law firm Eichhorn & Eichhorn, LLP. CNN called the firm and asked whether they were representing Hammond Police regarding the September incident. An unidentified woman said “that’s true and we have no comment.”

CNN attempted to contact Turner and Vicari, but was unsuccessful.

Who recorded the incident?

“That incident further magnifies what took place in Ferguson, the use of excess force that seems to be happening across the breath and width of this nation,” said NAACP Board Member John Gaskin. “As a man of color, if I’m pulled over, I will be leery of the officer and obey whatever commands they are giving me because at this point you are fearful of your life”

It was fear that led one of the children in the back seat, Joseph, 14, to begin recording the incident.

“The kids and the family had seen all the news of officers engaging in excessive force and were concerned for their safety,” family attorney Dana Kurtz told CNN affiliate WLS.

The children were “horrified,” said Kurtz. “They received glass shattered into the back seat, they had cuts in their arms. Not only were they harmed physically but they were harmed emotionally as well.”

“They were scared. Their perception of officers, of police officers who were supposed to be serving and protecting not only them, but us, everyone, has been tarnished for the rest of their lives,” said Kurtz.

‘Open dialogue’

A sentiment that judging by the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, is echoed by many. The August fatal shooting of Michael Brown in that city led to days of violent protests in Ferguson.

“Just because the police could do it, doesn’t mean they should. My question here is the judgment that they used smashing that window with the kid in the car and four passengers in that car if there could have been another way to get around that,” said CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes

The mayor said he acknowledged “the importance of being sensitive to differing points of views, amongst our diverse community, in regards to actions taken by our police department.”

“As always, I will continue to encourage open dialogue on this and any issue that may affect relations between city government and members of our community,” he said.

However, he concluded, he believes “when drivers get pulled over, whether they agree with the reason for the stop or they don’t, you must comply with lawful requests of the police.”

CNN’s Susan Candiotti and Ross Levitt contributed to this report.


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