A North Carolina business owner was arrested for violating the state's stay-at-home order. Matthew "Jax" Myers opened his tattoo parlor on Wednesday, and within minutes he was arrested.
Myers defied Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order that only "essential" businesses could be open because of the coronavirus pandemic. Myers, 38, opened up Apex Tattoo Factory, which he has owned for the last eight years. Myers resisted the shutdown orders because he was struggling financially and was worried his business would die.
Myers had posted on social media announcing that he was opening up his tattoo shop. Some people who saw the Facebook post notified the police. Officers from the Apex Police Department contacted Myers after receiving complaints and explained the orders that prohibited him from opening.
Myers opened up the Apex Tattoo Factory at 1 p.m. Wednesday, and within 10 minutes, he was being arrested for violating North Carolina's stay-at-home order.
Police arrest Apex tattoo artist who opened in defiance of order @newsobserver https://t.co/kYaZgxP1zT— Josh Shaffer (@Josh Shaffer) 1588180990.0
Police charged Myers with violating "Emergency Prohibitions and Restrictions, North Carolina General Statute 14-288.20A," an offense that carries up to a $1,000 fine or a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail if convicted.
"While understanding of and generally cooperative with officers, he refused to come into compliance with the Proclamation and was subsequently arrested without further incident," read a police statement.
"I respect the Apex Police Department. And it's probably with the heaviest of heart of all that this has to happen in Apex," Myers said.
"I'm a law-abiding citizen. I've done nothing wrong," he told WRAL-TV.
Myers attempted to get a small business loan and unemployment assistance, but he was not approved for either.
"When you can put a father of three in jail for opening his business because nobody will give me a loan, and let alone help me," Myers said. "My own bank, nobody is helping us."
"He has spent years building up this business, and for it to be taken away after being shut down for so long would be horrible," his wife Amber Myers said.
Amber and Matthew have been vocal opponents to Cooper's stay-at-home order, and they attended the ReOpenNC protests in downtown Raleigh.
"Whatever the consequences are to his decision, I'm gonna be there after it all and extend my hand to him and say 'I'm in this with you,'" Apex Mayor Jacques Gilbert said of Myers' arrest. "And I support you, and we're gonna get through this together."
"What I would say about him is that he's making a decision that obviously I wouldn't make in my current position, but I'm not in his position," Gilbert said. "I don't know exactly how he feels."
"I was never actually intending on tattooing anybody; it was in protest," Myers said. The tattoo artist has no regrets and plans to attend more ReOpenNC rallies until the state finally allows him to get back to business.
A week ago, Gov. Cooper extended the state's stay-at-home order through May 9, which was originally scheduled to expire on April 29, but the administration said that the state had "not yet seen a downward trajectory" in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. North Carolina will reopen in three stages, and personal care services will open in phase two, which is likely not to be allowed to reopen until late May or early June.
North Carolina has more than 10,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 397 COVID-19 deaths.
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