Salisbury police officers cleared in 2017 fatal shooting of bank robbery suspect
SALISBURY — State officials have cleared three Salisbury police officers in the November fatal shooting of a Salisbury man who robbed a Wells Fargo bank and shot a customer and another man during a carjacking.
In an 11-page report released by Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook on Monday, she said her office reviewed the investigation conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation into the death of Paul Jones III, 25. The investigation determined the conduct of Sgt. Michael Colvin and Officers Jay Basinger and Joseph Martinez was lawful.
The FBI and Salisbury Police Department investigated the bank robbery.
Police responded to Wells Fargo Bank at 866 W. Jake Alexander Blvd. about 5 p.m. Nov. 9 after a report of an armed robbery in progress. Police said while inside the bank, Jones shot Jose Santiago, 61, in the face. Later, he stole an Acura sedan belonging to Larry Darnell Dalton, 45, on Brenner Avenue and shot Dalton in the head and arm.
A short vehicle pursuit ensued. Jones, in the stolen car, struck a vehicle near the intersection of Jake Alexander Boulevard and Mooresville Road. Officers say Jones fired at them and they returned fire.
Bank employees said a masked man came into the bank through the front door, brandished a black handgun and told everyone to put their hands up. He jumped over the counter and demanded cash from the tellers. After getting the cash, he demanded car keys from people inside the bank.
One witness said Jones told a man, later identified as Jose Santiago, to give him his keys. A bank employee told investigators it appeared that Santiago did not understand Jones, and Jones shot him. A bank customer told investigators Jones fired and missed her on his way out of the bank.
Multiple witnesses told investigators they saw a masked man carrying a backpack run into the bank, leave the bank and run toward Brenner Avenue.
The witnesses said they saw a man shoot into a dark sedan at Brenner Avenue and get into the vehicle. Another witness told investigators he was at Brenner Avenue when he looked inside the bank and could see people with their hands in the air. He called 911 and then saw a masked man fire a gun.
Larry Dalton said he was sitting in his car at the intersection of Brenner Avenue and West Jake Alexander Boulevard. Dalton said while he was waiting for the stoplight to turn green, he saw a handgun pointed at the driver’s side window. He said he heard a gunshot and yelled to the suspect that he didn’t have anything.
Dalton told investigators he heard another gunshot and the suspectgot into his vehicle. Dalton said he jumped into the back seat and started feeling woozy. He said he was able to get out of the vehicle and a man and woman picked him up. Dalton said he woke up in the hospital.
Other witnesses who were at a nearby Rushco convenience store, McDonald’s fast-food restaurant and nearby intersections said they saw the black car that Jones was driving crash into other vehicles and officers surround the vehicle demanding that the suspect get out. The witnesses said at least two shots were fired from within the car and officers returned fire. One witness heard three or four gunshots followed by seven to 10 gunshots.
A witness said he heard officers saying, “Put the gun down” and “Get out of the car.” The witness said he heard two gunshots followed by six to 12 gunshots. The witness said he never saw who fired any of the shots.
Another witness said he heard 15 to 18 additional gunshots after the initial gunshots.
Officer Basinger told investigators he was on duty and responded to the armed robbery call at Wells Fargo. He said he saw a black sedan near Lincolnton Road whose driver drove around several cars and went through a stoplight.
Basinger said he turned around and the black car turned right toward South Main Street, then turned onto Jackson Street and ran another red light. Basinger said the black car then turned onto Mooresville Road toward Jake Alexander Boulevard.
Basinger said he reached speeds over 100 mph.
Sgt. Colvin, who was driving an unmarked Chevrolet Caprice, began pursuing the black sedan as well.
The black car, driven by Jones, swerved and hit another vehicle at the intersection of West Jake Alexander Boulevard and Mooresville Road. Colvin pulled up behind the black car and Basinger pulled next to the passenger side of the car.
Basinger told investigators he got out of his vehicle and heard two pops, then saw possibly two bullet holes in the passenger side of the windshield of the black sedan. Basinger told investigators he fired two or three rounds toward the area where the bullets went through the windshield.
Basinger saw Colvin approach the black car so he moved to the back of his vehicle. Basinger said Officer Martinez then approached the black car, and he said he believes he heard someone say, “He’s reloading.”
Basinger said Colvin and Martinez fired into the back of the black sedan and he thinks that he shot one more round. Basinger said he saw officers pull a black man out of the driver’s side window of the black sedan. Basinger said he provided someone a gunshot wound kit from his vehicle and paramedics arrived.
An officer identified as Sgt. Smith said he responded to the scene in his marked Chevrolet Tahoe and activated his blue lights and siren. Smith said as he approached Jake Alexander Boulevard and Mooresville Road, he heard gunshots.
Smith told investigators he heard all the shots together and could hear multiple weapons being fired, but he was not sure how many shots were fired. Smith said he saw officers surround a vehicle and give commands to “get out of the car.”
Smith said he saw a large amount of money in the driver’s seat of the vehicle the suspect was driving. Smith said that once the suspect was removed from the vehicle, Sgt. Colvin and another officer rendered aid to the man.
Martinez said he received information that the suspect had fled the scene in a vehicle and had shot at people. Martinez said when he arrived, officers were requesting that the suspect comply with their commands. He said the vehicle’s airbags were deployed, which made it difficult to see inside the vehicle.
Martinez told investigators the suspect was wearing a ski mask and kept looking back at the officers. Martinez said Colvin said, “He’s reloading,” and suddenly there was gunfire. Martinez said he fired three rounds at the suspect. He said officers continued to yell at the suspect to “show me your hands.”
Jones was removed from the vehicle, and officers rendered aid to him. Martinez said he saw Jones had two gunshot wounds and was wearing gloves.
Other Salisbury police officers gave similar accounts.
A crime scene investigator found blood inside the Wells Fargo bank. A .45 caliber spent shell casing was located on the floor a few feet from the front entrance. A bullet hole was found on an “employee only” access door and a bullet was lodged in a wall. Another .45 caliber spent shell casing was found on an employee’s desk.
Two spent .45 caliber shell casings were found near Brenner Avenue across from the bank, along with shattered glass.
The crime scene was in the west travel lanes directly in front of Jerry’s Shell Station, 600 W. Jake Alexander Blvd. near the intersection with Mooresville Road.
A Chevrolet Tahoe registered to the Salisbury Police Department was located partially in the right travel lane and partially in the middle lane. Investigators said nine spent .40 caliber Winchester shell casings were found on the ground at or near the driver’s side door or running board.
A green Kershaw brand knife was found on the hood of a Chevrolet Caprice registered to the Police Department. Investigators found three spent .40 caliber Winchester shell casings on the ground near the vehicle.
Two spent .40 caliber Winchester shell casings were found on the ground near the rear of the vehicle that Jones was driving. The crime scene investigator reported five areas on the front windshield that appeared to be bullet holes.
Projectile fragments were found on the passenger side windshield, and glass shards were visible on the passenger side of the vehicle’s hood. A projectile was found in the seal of the vehicle’s hood, and there was damage to both the front and rear passenger doors.
Crime scene investigators searched the Acura and found $12,347 in cash that belonged to Wells Fargo Bank in the driver’s seat and floorboard. A Springfield .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun with two magazines, one live .45 caliber round in the chamber, one magazine with three live .45 caliber rounds, and one empty magazine were found in the driver’s floorboard.
Three projectiles and bullet fragments were found in the vehicle, along with three spent .45 caliber shell casings. There were four bullet holes in the driver’s seat, two suspected bullet holes in the driver’s headrest, and a bullet hole in the driver’s side rear seat headrest.
A projectile was found on the ground under a first aid kit near the concrete median. A navy blue ski mask with a projectile inside was found in the same area, along with an unfired .40 caliber cartridge.
Investigators found two spent .40 caliber Winchester shell casings and a projectile on the ground near another Chevrolet Caprice registered to the Police Department. One spent .40 caliber Winchester shell casing was found in the grassy area of a curb. Another vehicle, a Honda Accord, which was struck by the vehicle Jones was driving, had damage to the windshield and rear areas.
A crime scene investigator collected Sgt. Colvin’s issued firearm, a Glock .40 caliber handgun. The handgun contained a magazine with five Winchester .40 caliber rounds of ammunition. Officer Basinger’s issued firearm, a Glock .40 caliber handgun, contained a magazine with 11 Winchester .40 caliber rounds, and one Winchester .40 caliber round was also collected. Officer Martinez’s issued firearm, a Glock .40 caliber handgun, contained a magazine with 10 Winchester .40 caliber rounds of ammunition.
State Crime Lab
The State Crime Lab confirmed that the ski mask contained DNA that matched Jones’.
In addition, three .45 caliber shell cases found inside the vehicle Jones was driving were fired from a Springfield .45 caliber handgun that was in the car. The lab also determined the seven .40 caliber fired bullets and jacket could not be identified or eliminated as having been fired from the officers’ service weapons or identified or eliminated as having been fired from the same firearm.
“Under the law, when using deadly force, the justification of using force includes all force necessary to end the threat,” the district attorney’s statement said. The physical evidence supports the conclusion that Paul Jones III had a firearm and fired it from the stolen vehicle following the vehicle crash. The N.C. State Crime Lab determined that the three spent .45 caliber shell casings, located inside the Acura black sedan that Jones had stolen and was operating, were fired from the Springfield .45 caliber handgun that was in the same vehicle.
“We have concluded that based upon the totality of the evidence, Officer Basinger, Sgt. Colvin, and Officer Martinez did not violate any criminal laws. Therefore, criminal charges are not warranted against them for the shooting death of Mr. Paul Jones III,” the statement said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.