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Indictments: Officers lied, stole, brandished guns

Posted May 5, 2009

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— One Spring Lake police officer held three men at gunpoint, and a second officer stole money and lied to cover it up, according to indictments handed down Monday by a Cumberland County grand jury.

Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr. and Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington Jr. were arrested Monday and were being held Tuesday in the Cumberland County Jail. A spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said more arrests were expected in the case.

According to an indictment, Coulter forced his way into a residence at 427 Vass Road on April 27, 2008, assaulted three men who were inside, pointed a handgun and shotgun at the men, forcibly removed them from the house and handcuffed them against their will. He was charged with three counts each of second-degree kidnapping, simple assault, assault with a deadly weapon, assault by pointing a gun and false imprisonment and one count each of felonious breaking and entering, felonious obstruction of justice and willfully failing to discharge duties.

Coulter, a 10-year veteran of the Spring Lake Police Department, was charged in a second indictment with felony obstruction of justice and willfully failing to discharge duties. Those charges stemmed from a Sept. 17 call at a Sleep Inn motel in which he allegedly told subordinate officers to lie about smelling marijuana in a room where the officers seized $2,900.

Whittington, who has been with the department for four years, was accused in an indictment of stealing that $2,900 from the department's evidence room between Sept. 17 and Jan. 28, falsifying records to cover up the theft and reprimanding another officer who wouldn't also alter records. He is charged with three counts of felonious obstruction of justice, two counts of willfully failing to discharge duties and one count each of embezzlement by a public officer, obtaining property by false pretense, felonious larceny, larceny by trick, larceny by employee and solicitation of another to commit a felony.

Sources told WRAL News that the incident at the Sleep Inn was a State Bureau of Investigation sting. The SBI has been investigating the Spring Lake Police Department for two years.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office assumed control of the police department Monday. Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said four deputies would work on each shift in Spring Lake for as long as necessary, and his office set up a mobile command post at the Spring Lake Library.

Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday morning. He and other officers were at work – some were seen driving around town in their patrol cars – although it was unclear what law enforcement authority they held.

Mayor Ethel Clark said she supports Brown and has no plans to seek his resignation.

Still, lifelong Spring Lake resident Natasha Lyle said the police department is an embarrassment, and it's time for new blood.

"What is the world coming to?" Lyle said. "They need to take care of it. They need to nip it in the bud."

Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis requested the SBI investigation, saying a conversation between a Spring Lake officer and a county deputy about narcotics enforcement raised concerns about the police department's ability to investigate crimes.

At Grannis' urging, a judge two years ago stripped Spring Lake of the authority to handle felony investigations, following a botched homicide investigation involving a 3-year-old. Those cases were put in the hands of sheriff's investigators.

Grannis has dismissed all pending misdemeanor cases in Spring Lake, saying the he suspects senior officers of lying and directing other officers to fabricate facts in police reports.

39 Comments

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  • SingleLensReflex.SLR May 6, 2009

    using the Spring Lake disaster as an argument against affirmative action is faulty logic. So there are no white male inmates? No excellent minority law enforcement officers?

    I also take issue with the "thin line between criminals and cops theory". Thats like saying there is a thin line between marilyn monroe's beauty mark and cancer. Between a spring shower and a hurricane. One creates beauty and order, the other chaos. Same canvas, huge difference.

  • dogman1973 May 6, 2009

    yes, there is a very thin blue line between criminals and law enforcement and this case just proves it!

  • factsfirstopinionlater May 5, 2009

    I am too busy being impressed by the DA's actions to even comment on the behavior of the suspects.

  • Tommylee May 5, 2009

    THESE GUYS NEED TO BE HIT HARD.

  • Common Sense Man May 5, 2009

    "SingleLensReflex- While the comments of others might not be PC the questions raised are legit. Why do we still have affirmative action. How is it that the government can tell a private company who they can and cannot hire. Go ahead and blast me but, if you move past the PC junk you have to ask yourself why we even have this law anymore."

    If you're a minority or a female you've got an easy path to getting hired in law enforcement, regardless of qualifications. All cops know this.

  • Whatever Geez May 5, 2009

    lets focus on all of these executives who are getting bonuses worth more than what we all make in 2-3 years."

    Bonuses aren't against the law. Stealing cash from an evidence locker is. See the difference?

    Geez...

    sorry didn't finish what i was saying...getting "bonuses" from bail out money..there.....is that good enough for ya!

  • jlh4jdj May 5, 2009

    hpr641-Your right all these CEO's who are getting busted, that's nothing. The bottom line is that they just have the money to buy off enough people to keep their noses clean until their company (the one they are bleeding dry) goes under. Think about it they get busted when they run out of money! That means that they can't pay off anyone anymore.

    SingleLensReflex- While the comments of others might not be PC the questions raised are legit. Why do we still have affirmative action. How is it that the government can tell a private company who they can and cannot hire. Go ahead and blast me but, if you move past the PC junk you have to ask yourself why we even have this law anymore.

  • skaternum May 5, 2009

    downsouthtyler said, "All part of the "NC Police quit-pro-quo" game."

    First of all, it's QUID pro quo. Secondly, it's not a NC thing. It's pretty much universal -- and not even limited to law enforcement. Every group with some kind of power takes care of its own.

  • Just the facts mam May 5, 2009

    It is sad and hard on the society when the good guys turn out to be the bad guys. The proverbial wolf in sheeps clothing. May room for 2 more at the state pen.

  • SweetB May 5, 2009

    DESPICABLE!!!

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