CARY, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina town has asked a county prosecutor and the state to investigate a bank hostage's race-related complaint that he was beaten, cursed and handcuffed by local police when he emerged during the siege.
An attorney for 52-year-old Lee Everett, who is black, said in a letter to Cary town officials that his client's rough treatment differed from that of the white hostages taken captive during the Feb. 11 standoff at a Wachovia bank. It ended when police fatally shot the hostage-taker, who was also black.
"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 shortly after 6 p.m.," Durham attorney Alan McSurely wrote in a Feb. 20 letter to Cary Town Attorney Christine Simpson.
Town officials 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 on Friday.
"We take these allegations very seriously, which is why we have asked the Wake County District Attorney's office and State Bureau of Investigation to lead an independent evaluation of the complaint," Cary town spokeswoman Susan Moran said Friday night.
Moran referred further questions about the probe to District Attorney Colon Willoughby's office in Raleigh.
The complaint says Everett, who works at a grocery store adjacent to the Wachovia branch in Cary, a Raleigh suburb, was at the bank on Feb. 11 to close out the account of his father, who recently died. He was discussing how to close the account with a bank manager when a man came into the bank, jumped over a counter and grabbed one of two tellers, the letter said.
The letter said Everett, who is identified as a minister, started praying. About 45 minutes after he'd entered the bank, the suspect told Everett and the manager they could leave. The manager chose not to leave the two tellers behind and stayed in the bank.
According to the letter, Everett put up his hands as he left the bank and said, "I'm a hostage." The complaint said several officers jumped Everett immediately, throwing him on the ground and yelling obscenities at him. Three different officers put knees in his back, buttocks and neck as he lay on his stomach, the letter said.
Everett's complaint said an officer pulled his left arm behind his back and over his head, causing muscle tears.
"God you're going to break it. You're going to break it," the letter quoted Everett as saying.
The complaint said Everett was dragged across a field and over a construction fence, eventually reaching a police car. It was during that time that Everett was said to have told police that the man inside the bank didn't have a gun. Also, the letter says, a woman standing near the police car was quoted as saying, "I told you that's not him."
More than three hours after Everett went into the bank, 19-year-old Devon Mitchell came out appearing to hold a gun to the head of one of the hostages. Officers shot and killed Mitchell, who was later determined to have been unarmed.
A message left at McSurely's office Friday night wasn't returned.
Moran, the Cary town spokeswoman, said police would typically conduct an internal investigation of a complaint about officers.
"Because of the high-profile nature of this incident," she added, "we felt it important to ensure that our citizens had the ultimate level of trust and confidence in the outcome and the findings."
Moran said there was no timetable for completion of the report.
"We want the district attorney's office and the SBI to do everything they feel is necessary to ensure they know exactly what happened in this case," she said.
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