Spring Lake police chief resigns; SBI seizes records
Posted May 6, 2009
Updated May 7, 2009
Spring Lake, N.C. — Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown resigned Wednesday evening after witnesses reported seeing him and an officer shredding files, according to Spring Lake Alderman Napoleon Hogans.
Superior Court Judge E. Lynn Johnson on Wednesday ordered the State Bureau of Investigation to take control of all police files, including computer and cell phone records.
The order cited a report that Brown was seen shredding documents in the department until 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and that a Cumberland County deputy saw police Sgt. Mark Thomas shredding files on Tuesday.
Brown became chief in 2004 and had been with the department since the 1990s.
The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office assumed control of law enforcement in Spring Lake on Monday, following the arrests of two officers on a variety of charges. Four deputies patrol the town on each shift, and a mobile command post has been set up at the Spring Lake Library.
Earlier Wednesday, Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler warned the Spring Lake Police Department not to interfere with law enforcement efforts in the town.
Because more than 20 officers in the police department remain on the job, Butler sent Brown a letter, before he resigned, outlining how he plans to enforce the law in Spring Lake. It doesn't include help from police officers in town.
"Members of the Spring Lake Police Department shall not be allowed to participate in any criminal investigation conducted by the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office," Butler wrote in the letter. "The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office shall not adopt or accept any future criminal investigations initiated or conducted by the Spring Lake Police Department until further written notice."
Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr. and Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington Jr. were arrested Monday. Coulter was being held Wednesday at Central Prison in Raleigh, and Whittington has been released on a $100,000 bond.
Indictments allege that Coulter participated in an April 2008 home invasion in which three men were held at gunpoint and that he asked subordinate officers to falsify a report about a September raid on a motel room in which $2,900 was seized. Whittington was accused of stealing that money from the police department's evidence room and trying to cover it up.
Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis asked the SBI to look into the Spring Lake Police Department two years ago, saying he had concerns about the 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 that he suspects senior officers of lying and directing other officers to fabricate facts in police reports.