Sunday, August 7, 2022

DA’s office contradicts Wilmington PD, says mental health didn’t factor in dropping bank robbery charges

A lawsuit against former teacher Michael Kelly, along with the New Hanover County Board of Education and administration, is moving forward in Superior Court. (Port City Daily photo / File)
A lawsuit against former teacher Michael Kelly, along with the New Hanover County Board of Education and administration, is moving forward in Superior Court. (Port City Daily photo / File)

WILMINGTON — District Attorney Ben David has provided additional information regarding the decision not to charge a man for attempting to rob a Wells Fargo bank late last month — contradicting initial information provided by the Wilmington Police Department.

“On December 26, 2019, it was reported that a man entered a Wells Fargo branch in Wilmington and handed a clerk a note telling her to give him all her $100 bills. The clerk complied and handed the man a bag containing the money. The man immediately handed that same bag to another bank clerk and said: “This does not belong to me, you know what to do.“ At that time, a manager requested that the man take a seat. The man sat as requested and waited for law enforcement to arrive. The man did not act as if he possessed a weapon and officers confirmed that he was not in possession of a weapon,” according to a press release from David.

However, earlier information provided by the police claimed the District Attorney decided not to press charges due to ‘mental health’ problems.

The day after the incident, Wilmington Police Department spokesperson Linda Thompson provided an update, which read in part, “[t]he DA and FBI have both declined to press charges citing that the suspect suffered from mental [health] problems.”

According to David — that was not the case.

Related: Wilmington PD: Man who robbed bank, returned money committed to mental health facility

“Some reports indicated that the District Attorney’s Office declined prosecution based on the subject’s mental health issues and this is not accurate. While there may have been mental health issues affecting his behavior, that did not play a part in the analysis of the evidence collected during this investigation,” David said.

He then explained how exactly warrants can be issued for the arrest of individuals.

“In order for a magistrate to issue a warrant for the arrest of an individual for robbery, there must be probable cause to believe that the offender intended to permanently deprive the owner of the stolen property. The eyewitnesses’ statements gathered by law enforcement and the behavior and statements of the subject of the investigation were clear that this was not the case. When evidence collected during an investigation does not provide probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, our office declines prosecution, according to David.

“In situations such as this, our office requests and advises that police investigators explore with an independent judicial official the appropriateness of a civil mental health commitment and evaluation. The District Attorney’s Office does not participate in that assessment,” he concluded.

According to Thompson the error was not intentional and was based on the information available at the time.

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