Sexual assault reported outside New Hanover County Downtown Library

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(Photo: New Hanover County Sheriff's Office)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Police have arrested a man they say sexually assaulted a female outside the New Hanover County Downtown Library.

Detectives with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office say they were requested by Patrol Deputies to respond to the library and parking deck located at 201 Chestnut Street early Wednesday morning.

Police say they met with the female victim, a homeless female, and retrieved video surveillance of the area where they were able to identify the suspect.

Detectives located Franklin Watt Mills, a homeless man, at the 3rd Street WAVE bus station.

Mills was arrested and charged with 2nd rape, 2nd degree sexual assault and sexual battery.

He was transported to the New Hanover County Detention Facility and given a $500,000 secure bond.

Following the incident, a spokesperson for New Hanover County made the following statement:

New Hanover County has been proactively working on a plan to identify solutions and help support individuals who are homeless throughout the community. We understand that this has become a public safety and public health issue, particularly on the downtown block near the library, and we are committed to doing all we can to protect our community and provide the right supports for those who are experiencing crises. This plan will include wrap-around support services and case management for homeless individuals, as well as help ensure compliance with rules. The alleged assault that occurred this week further emphasizes the need for this comprehensive plan, and the county will be working with our partners to bring that forward and to fruition in the coming weeks.

Currently, the county has a social worker at the downtown library who works with homeless individuals and in partnership with Wilmington Development Inc.’s outreach specialist. In addition, county staff try and empty trash cans and dispose of garbage regularly, but an abundance of personal belongings has made those efforts difficult. Additional tools are being researched currently for a more thorough and continued clean-up of the site, without causing significant displacement.

As comprehensive plans and clean-up efforts continue and are finalized, the community will be kept informed.

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