Local News

Cary bank hostage claims police mistreatment

Posted February 26, 2011 2:50 p.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2011 4:22 p.m. EST

— A Cary man who was held hostage in a bank earlier in February says that police treated him roughly when he was released.

Police say that Devon Mitchell, 19, claimed to have a gun and held as many as seven people hostage at a Wachovia bank on Feb. 10. He let five hostages, including Rev. Lee Everett, leave over the course of three hours.

As he escaped, Everett said, police mistook him for the hostage-taker. He said officers immediately jumped him, kneed him in the back and neck and forced him to ground.

"I remember them screaming, 'Shut up, shut up, shut up,' and I'm trying to say, 'You all going to kill me,'" Everett said.

 "They just grabbed my arm, they bent my arm back, and they just went to town on my little tail."

Everett said he yelled that he was a hostage, but police didn't realize he wasn't the suspect until they had dragged him across the parking lot and over a fence.

The standoff at the bank on Green Level Church Road ended when Mitchell left the bank holding what appeared to be a gun to the head of a woman and was shot by law enforcement.

Mitchell had a baby face and a lost look, Everett recalled.

"There was just an empty look to his face," he said. "He didn't look like he wanted to kill nobody. He wanted help because he never asked for any money."

Everett, who is black, filed a complaint against police this week, claiming that he was treated differently than the six other white hostages. Police knew the hostage-taker was a black man from a description given to a 911 dispatcher during a call from inside the bank.

The caller described the hostage-taker's purple shirt and red pants. Everett said he was wearing a Harris-Teeter smock and had come from the grocery store, where he works as a produce manager.

Everette worries what would have happened to him if he had left the bank with a female hostage, who he had tried to convince to leave with him. She stayed because Mitchell had told only men to leave, he said.

"The first thing I see when I get back home – them shooting that boy," Everett said. "And I said to myself then, I begged that little girl to leave with me. If she'd have walked out that bank with me, what would have happened to me?"

An officer apologized after the incident and said they didn't know that he was a hostage, Everette said.

"I said, 'You still don't have to do me like that. You're supposed to protect me, and you (are) the guys to do me in,'" he said. "It was so wrong to treat me like they did."

Everett was taken to the hospital after the incident. He said he suffered ripped muscles in his arm and severe bruising and still has nightmares.

Cary spokeswoman Susan Moran said that the town has asked the Wake County District Attorney's Office and State Bureau of Investigation to look into these allegations, so "everyone would have the trust and confidence in the police department and their actions."

"We take it extremely seriously. And if we find that we have staff members that haven't upheld our expectations, they are gone," Moran said.

The results of the investigation will be posted on the town of Cary's website for the public to see, she said.

Police have not determined what might have been Mitchell's motive, but investigators and friends have said that he was mentally troubled. Investigators have said that although Mitchell did not have a gun, he wanted people to believe that he did.

The four Cary police officers and one Wake County sheriff's deputies who fired shots have been placed on administrative duty, pending a state investigation of the incident. That follows standard procedure whenever an officer discharges a weapon.