WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington man is behind bars after police say he stole about a dollar in change at a bank yesterday. But the way that police took Roy Smith II into custody has some asking if the they acted too harshly.
Police say around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday Smith entered the SECU on Converse Drive and held out his hand. He did not say anything to the cashier and didn’t present a weapon. After a few awkward moments he ran towards a woman who was depositing money into a CoinStar machine and stole one dollar in change before running outside.
We talked with Smith in jail today. He did not seem to understand some of our questions or what happened after he went to the bank. At one point he said he didn’t remember anything that happened yesterday because he didn’t have his clothes on, even though he was fully clothed.
But he was clear that he did not try to rob the bank.
“I was trying to take out a checking and savings account,” Smith said. “I ain’t got no reason to steal nothing from nobody. Why would somebody steal a dollar?”
Wilmington Police say officers tried multiple times to get Smith to leave his vehicle peacefully, but they say he would not. Once they finally got him out, they say he would not show officers his hands. They then used what Chief Ralph Evangelous called necessary force.
“Had he shown his hands, there would not have been an issue,” Evangelous said. “Until we see his hands, it is a very dangerous and volatile situation that could have gone really bad and didn’t. I support our response and our efforts there”
When we asked Smith if he felt an officer had assaulted him, he said, “no.” When we asked if he’d ever been in trouble or been arrested, he shook his head no. But Wilmington Police say this is not their first run in with Smith.
“This individual has been armed several times in the past in confrontations that we have had with him,” Evangelous said. “We didn’t know whether or not he was armed. Like I have said before, I am not going to put our officers in a situation where they are going to get themselves hurt or killed because of our complacency.”
Department of Corrections records show Smith has a lengthy criminal history including multiple convictions on drug and gun charges and two convictions for assault with a deadly weapon on a government officer.
Smith is in the New Hanover County Jail facing a felony larceny charge. His bond is set at $10,000.
Wilmington Police released dashcam video of Smith’s arrest.
Cpl. Kevin Smith says on the video that the arrest was appropriate, because the suspects were considered to have robbed a bank.
Smith says the occupants of the vehicle police stopped refused to get out for several minutes, however the video shows it was 57 seconds before the suspect was out of the SUV and on the ground.
The video shows an undercover officer dragging the suspect away from the SUV, then stomping on his rear-end twice while yelling, “Put your hands behind your back!”
Smith says the officer felt he needed to “emphasize that with his foot.”
He says it’s important for the public to know that felony stops like this one are one of the most dangerous situations an officer can be in, just short of being shot at.