Fayetteville, N.C. — Police said Thursday that they believe an 18-year-old charged in the weekend shooting death of a Vietnam War veteran in Fayetteville did not act alone.
Terrane Kulaia Dukes, of the 700 block of Weiss Avenue, was arrested Wednesday evening and charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the death of 67-year-old Wolfgang Joppich.
According to police, Dukes shot Joppich in the chest Sunday night behind a Krispy Kreme on Tally Ho Drive. Joppich was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Dukes' mother, Daisy Davis, said an older man killed Joppich.
"He's been crying ever since. He was, like, 'Mom, it wasn't me,'" Davis said.
Detective Ronnie Hutchins of the Fayetteville Police Department wouldn't elaborate on how many other people might have been involved in Joppich's death, but he said "at least one" other suspect could have helped Dukes.
Joppich, who was known to frequent the area of Bragg Boulevard to feed feral cats, lived out of a van for years after growing up in Germany and serving in the Army for 16 years.
Davis said she and Dukes had seen Joppich around the area for years.
"I know he was a good man. That's how I know my son did not do anything to him," she said. "I know my son would not hurt him because we used to talk about him feeding the cats and how sweet it was."
In 2011, the Operation Inasmuch Christian ministry provided Joppich a home.
Hutchins said people in the community may have thought Joppich had money, and robbery was the primary motive for Sunday's shooting.
"He was clean cut, neat and had his own vehicle," Hutchins said of Joppich. "I didn't know he was homeless. I thought he was a volunteer (at Inasmuch). A lot of people in the community thought he had money."
Operation Inasmuch Executive Director Sue Byrd said Thursday that Joppich made friends easily and was a blessing to hundreds of people in Fayetteville's homeless community.
"We're so grateful to the community, and we pray it's going to end really soon," she said. "We grieve for this 18-year-old. We don't know him, but we grieve for him because his life will be different from now on. We forgive him, because Wolfgang would."
Hutchins credited the dozens of tips investigators received from community members, saying they helped them find and apprehend Dukes quickly.
"This is a prime example of when the community and law enforcement come together, that arrests can be made quickly," he said. "I still need the help from the community. There are people out there who know who the other suspects are. It's still ongoing."
Dukes visited Operation Inasmuch in July, Byrd said, and she attended his first court appearance on Thursday afternoon.
"We need people like us to stand beside a kid who thinks he's a thug and say, 'I will watch every step you make. I will stand beside you, and I'll be here for you,'" she said. "Why aren't we as a community taking on these kids? ... That's why we show up (at Operation Inasmuch) every morning, because we've made a commitment."
The organization will hold a memorial service for Joppich as soon as possible at the Westminster Presbyterian Church on Village Drive, she said.
Anyone with information about Joppich's death is asked to call the Fayetteville Police Department at 910-433-1856 or Crime Stoppers at 910-483-8477.