CARY, N.C. (AP) — A black man held hostage during a bank robbery says he was thrown to the ground and then kneed, cursed and handcuffed by police after being freed from captivity. Authorities say a county prosecutor and the state have begun reviewing the complaint.
An attorney for Lee Everett sent a letter to authorities in the town of Cary, a Raleigh suburb, stating his client is a 52-year-old reverend who was treated roughly by police, unlike white hostages held in the Feb. 10 standoff at a Wachovia bank branch there.
According to the letter, Everett put his hands up as he left the bank earlier in the hourslong drama and declared, "I'm a hostage." The complaint said several officers jumped Everett immediately, throwing him to the ground and shouting obscenities at him. Three different officers put knees in his back, buttocks and neck, according to the letter.
The letter said one sergeant subsequently tried to apologize.
More than three hours after the hostage-taking began that day, 19-year-old Devon Mitchell emerged, appearing to hold a gun to the head of one of the hostages. Officers shot and killed Mitchell, who police later said was found to be unarmed.
"Rev. Everett was treated differently and with unnecessary roughness and violence than the white hostages who were released or remained in the bank when the situation was finally ended," Durham attorney Alan McSurely wrote in his Feb. 20 letter to Cary Town Attorney Christine Simpson.
Town officials said Friday night they have asked the Wake County District Attorney's office and the State Bureau of Investigation to review Everett's complaint, which was first reported by WRAL-TV in Raleigh earlier in the day.
"We take these allegations very seriously," Cary town spokeswoman Susan Moran said.
"Because of the high-profile nature of this incident," she said, "we felt it important to ensure that our citizens had the ultimate level of trust and confidence in the outcome."
She referred further questions to District Attorney Colon Willoughby's office in Raleigh.
The complaint states that Everett, who works at a grocery store near the bank, went to close the account of his father, who died recently. He was meeting a bank manager when a man entered, leaped over a counter and seized one of two tellers, the letter states.
The letter said Everett, identified as a 52-year-old reverend, began praying out loud and the suspect didn't seem to mind. "He was not upset when Rev. Everett prayed out loud for all the people in the bank," it stated. The letter didn't elaborate on Everett's religious affiliation or title.
About 45 minutes after Everett entered the bank, the suspect told the man and the manager that they could leave but the manager opted to stay with the tellers.
Everett's complaint stated that upon leaving the building, he was jumped by police and thrown face down and sharply kneed, his face driven into the ground. The letter said an officer pulled Everett's left arm behind his back and over his head, tearing shoulder muscles.
Everett was dragged to a police car, the letter stated, adding a woman standing nearby declared, "I told you that's not him" and an officer subsequently tried to apologize.
A message left at McSurely's office Friday night wasn't returned.
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