Three charged after robbing Catawba student, fleeing

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 11, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — With his business exam fresh on his mind, Jonathan Pendergraft didn’t think twice about giving the two approaching men directions to the interstate as he left Catawba College’s campus Thursday afternoon.
When the men asked for his wallet, the fourth-year student said he noticed one was holding a handgun.
“I’m getting robbed. I’m at school. It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” Pendergraft said were his first thoughts when he realized what was happening just 30 yards from campus.
Pendergraft spoke to the Post in a phone interview Thursday evening just hours after three Charlotte men were arrested and charged with robbing Pendergraft at gunpoint.
The suspects tried to flee from police but were captured Thursday afternoon when they crashed the Jeep they were in.
Pendergraft was on the way to his car, which was parked on Yost Street, when he saw two men approaching.
After being startled by a passing car, the two jumped in a blue Jeep Cherokee and headed toward downtown Salisbury.
But before they turned around on a dead-end street, Pendergraft got into his own car, called Salisbury Police and began following the SUV.
Pendergraft told authorities where the men were heading and said he stopped following the Jeep just moments before it collided with a burgundy van at the intersection of Institute and West Horah streets.
Salisbury Police units were setting up a perimeter around the moving vehicle as they spoke to Pendergraft, Deputy Chief Steve Whitley said Thursday evening.
As police began trailing the suspects, the Jeep’s driver hit the gas, running a stop sign and hitting the left side of a 2003 Ford E-250.
Three men inside fled from the vehicle, but they were run down by Salisbury officers and quickly taken from the scene as a large crowd gathered.
Arrest reports obtained by the Post listed all three suspects as Charlotte residents.
According to the reports, 25-year-old Darion Gregory Williams, 1740 Wilmore Dr., was charged with felony robbery with a dangerous weapon, reckless driving, hit and run, driving while license revoked and resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer.
Brandon Lescott Moffet, 24, of 6819 Griers Pasture Road, and Chase Vasilis Cousar, 24, of Sharon Brooke Road, were also charged with felony robbery with a dangerous weapon and resisting, obstructing or delaying a public officer.
All three were in jail Thursday night under $250,000 bond.
Salisbury Police patrol cars, a Salisbury Fire Department truck, EMS and a Salisbury Police crime scene van lined the streets near the intersection as emergency crews attended to the driver of the van and waited for a tow truck.
The man driving the van was treated at the scene for minor injuries, but he declined to be taken to the hospital, Whitley said. His name was not released Thursday.
Residents in the area said they didn’t see the accident, but heard the crash.
Ron and Kesha Brown said they were on their way back from a cell phone store when they saw the burgundy van buried in a bush in their front yard.
“I thought the van had hit the house,” Kesha said.
Ron said he first saw the emergency crews around his house and thought there might be a fire.
“I thought there was something wrong with the house,” he said.
Ron said he recognized the van as one driven by a local disc jockey.
“I thought, ‘Is he OK?’ Luckily, all it was was a place on his leg,” Ron said.
Officers recovered the student’s wallet and a pistol from the accused robbers, authorities said, after taking them into custody.
According to arrest reports, authorities recovered a .32 caliber Smith & Wesson.
Whitley said victims should call police immediately, but officers don’t ask anyone to follow suspects.
“We don’t encourage victims to do anything foolish because we don’t want them to get hurt,” he said. “But in this case, he kept calm and was able to direct us right to him.”
Whitley said communication was important in tracking the suspects on foot and making arrests.
“It was a very well coordinated job, especially by the guys that were on foot chasing them,” Whitley said.
Pendergraft said he never thought he would be in that situation while walking to his car.
“I would never think that I would get robbed leaving school in the middle of the afternoon,” he said. “You don’t really expect that.”
Pendergraft said he has seen Catawba’s security around campus and even saw an officer as he was trailing the Jeep. He said he thinks they do a good job keeping the college safe.
“I think they do a pretty good job, personally,” he said. “It was just one of those freak things.”