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Mental illness likely a factor in fatal Cary hostage standoff

Posted February 14, 2011

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— A hostage standoff at a Cary bank Thursday has stirred the community and raised safety concerns in a neighborhood where residents say violent crime is increasing.

Devon Mitchell, 19, carried a knit toboggan that he said was concealing a gun into the Wachovia bank at 10050 Green Level Church Road and held seven people hostage for three hours, police said. He was fatally shot by police as he left the bank with the toboggan held to a woman's head. Mitchell told hostages and the police that he had a gun, but Cary police said Sunday that Mitchell was not actually armed.

The bank reopened an hour late Monday and planned to resume normal business hours Tuesday, but employees who were present during the standoff have not returned to work. Staff from other branches are helping out.

The community, too, is still reeling.

"I think most of the people in this community feel it's truly a tragic story," said Cheryl Concepcion, who lives nearby. Her children attend school in the area.

"(My daughter) sent me a text that said, 'Mom, Code Yellow, we're locked down,'" she said. "Of course they didn't know what was going on, and neither did we at the time."

Friends described Mitchell as an artist, a musician and a sports fan who struggled with mental health issues.

"There were indications of a young man who was disturbed," said Debra Dihoff, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness' North Carolina chapter.

Dihoff said it's very likely that Mitchell suffered from mental illness. While help lines and other mental health programs are available to teens, Dihoff said it's important for community members to be proactive when they see someone in trouble.

"We need to bust through the stigma and discrimination," she said. "If more of that had been done with this 19-year-old, if more people had noticed signs, symptoms or problems, maybe he'd still be here with us."

cary hostage Cary hostage-taker likely suffered from mental illness

Although police still aren’t sure what Mitchell’s motives might have been, they have speculated about why he wanted police to believe he was armed and whether he wanted the standoff to end the way it did.

"Why Devon set this all in motion, why he wanted us all to believe that he had a weapon and that he was prepared to kill with it are questions that we will never have the answers to. But it’s clear that's what Devon wanted us to believe," Police Chief Pat Bazemore said Sunday.

She added that interviews with Mitchell's friends and family indicated the teen was "troubled."

Friends said at a candlelight vigil Sunday that Mitchell was not a violent person

"He would never harm anybody. He never has. He's been going through so much lately," said Samantha Perry, who said she has known Mitchell for seven years. 

The standoff was the first fatal officer-involved shooting in the history of the Cary Police Department, Bazemore said Sunday.

She said five law enforcement agents discharged their weapons – a Wake County sheriff's deputy and four Cary officers – but she declined to say how many times Mitchell was shot.

The officers have been placed on administrative duty until the investigation into the shooting is complete, which is standard procedure whenever an officer discharges a weapon.

Cary town officials met Monday to discuss ideas for combating crime in the area.

53 Comments

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  • jodip2000 Feb 16, 2011

    No disrespect to Dihoff, but there is no proof that this young man suffered from a mental illness. I seriously doubt that an actual hospital has confirmed a mental illness as it would be a violation of hipaa

  • delilahk2000 Feb 15, 2011

    WRAL, I SEE MY COMMENT DID NOT MAKE IT. TRUTH HURTS DOESN'T IT?????

  • jodip2000 Feb 15, 2011

    I've been wanting to comment on this story for days but I've been trying to find the correct wording as I do not really want to disrespect either side of this situation.

    I will say that, I agree 100% with how the police handled and executed their jobs. With the information provided to the police, they made the best decision. It was their jobs to protect the young lady that was being dragged/forced out of that bank.

    If mental illness is involved, shame on Devon's friends and family. I know his "friend" that is featured in that video extremely well and I also know of her friends. They really could have provided a healthier and more positive environment for their friend in order to have prevented this outcome.

    I'm so very sorry for his young man's families' loss. Someone has lost a brother, son, friend etc. It is my sincere wish that this will serve as a wake up call for the featured girl and the remainder of her friends. It is now time for them to get their lives together.

  • Marlene Feb 15, 2011

    Someone should have ask him to show he had a gun

  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter Feb 15, 2011

    """While help lines and other mental health programs are available to teens, Dihoff said it's important for community members to be proactive when they see someone in trouble"""

    Ha! Yeah, try that out and let me know how it works out for ya! Have any of you ever tried to actually convince a mentaly ill person that they are mentaly ill? That is a good way to get yourself into a whole lot of trouble.

  • Red Green Feb 15, 2011

    fatchanceimwrong - I'm not arguing the end result at all. My thoughts go out to all concerned. The hostages no doubt will be reliving this over and over as well as the LEO's who had to take the shot(s). Unfortunately there were no other options for the police. I'm just saying it's a tragedy all the way around.

  • bmg379 Feb 15, 2011

    I feel the Cary PD did exactly what needed to be done. Can you imagine how the hostage felt?

    exactly,that woman now will have nightmares and stress the rest of her life,he should have not brought innocent people into his world

  • tritonlm6 Feb 15, 2011

    mentally ill or mentally competent. he claimed he had a gun. he held people hostage "at gunpoint" inside of a BANK for over three hours. as a result of those actions he got what was coming to him.

    next...

  • ncrebel Feb 15, 2011

    Samantha Perry.......if you were such a close friend and indicate Mr. Mitchell didn't deserve to die like that, why didn't you help? Where were you?

    I feel the Cary PD did exactly what needed to be done. Can you imagine how the hostage felt?

  • bmg379 Feb 15, 2011

    lots of people have split personality/mental issues and do crazy stuff,however going into a business and prentending to have a gun,sorry you pretty much know the outcome

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