Local News

Dunn police: Warning unneeded as suspected thief not considered dangerous

Posted March 28, 2012 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2012 7:06 p.m. EDT

— A Dunn family that was the victim of a violent home invasion following a police chase said Tuesday that authorities put the family's safety in jeopardy by not notifying them that the suspected car thief was never caught.

More than an hour after the manhunt was called off Monday, James and Kelly Young said, the man forced his way into their home, assaulted Kelly Young and stole a gun that belonged to their 15-year-old son.

"They didn't give us the opportunity to get my family out of here by telling us the guy hadn't been apprehended," James Young said. "They didn't leave anybody in case he came back."

But Dunn's police chief, B.P. Jones, said Wednesday that his department never had any information to believe that the man was a threat and that officers didn't want to alarm neighbors after the search was called off.

"I can understand them being concerned about the fact that nobody told them he had been apprehended," Jones said. "We had no reason to believe that he was dangerous to anybody. All we knew was that we were after a car thief, and we felt the only thing he wanted to do was get away, and we actually thought he had accomplished what he wanted to do."

Police and Harnett County sheriff's deputies had been looking for Johnell Chance, 44, of Greensboro, after he allegedly stole a car earlier in the day from McLamb Auto Mart in Dunn.

Chance was being pursued by officers when he crashed the stolen car into a tree near the Youngs' home. He got out of the car and ran off into some nearby woods.

Authorities searched for about 90 minutes before calling it off. Less than two hours later, the Youngs say, Chance broke into their home, and Kelly Young had to fight him off with a baseball bat.

"We assumed he had left the area," Jones said, because search dogs had lost track of him.

James Young reacted Wednesday, saying he was disturbed by the police chief's response, pointing out that police pursued the stolen car at high rates of speed and that they were wearing bulletproof vests and openly carrying automatic weapons.

"I find the arrogance of Chief Jones' statement to you completely incredulous," he said. "If they didn't consider the man dangerous, why brandish the weapons or wear protection at all?"

"If the police had chased the man into Chief Jones' back yard, would they have left without apprising his family of the situation? I think not," he continued.

Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins, whose office has jurisdiction over the area where the Youngs live, said Tuesday that the family should have been notified.

"Bottom line, that family should have been contacted, and that didn't happen, and I told the family they deserve an apology," Rollins said in a statement. "I am not going to point fingers (as far as which agency should have talked to the family), but when these things occur, it's incumbent on all of us to do our jobs."

Chance was arrested later in the day Monday and was in the Harnett County jail Wednesday.

Dunn police charged him with possession of a stolen vehicle – stemming from a car theft in Greensboro – and vehicle theft. He was also wanted in Maryland for car theft.

It's still unclear, what other charges Chance might face by the sheriff's office.