WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous says two suspects who were shot and killed by officers after a suspected armed robbery at the Pizza Hut on South 17th Street did not fire at the officers, but ran at them after being told to surrender.
According to arrest warrants, Jalani Smith, 20, Tevin Robinson, 20, and Ronald Roland, 18, held four Pizza Hut employees at gunpoint around 11:45 Friday night while they robbed the store. The warrants say the trio took $100 and two cell phones from the victims.
Police said the three men refused to comply with officers as they were leaving the business. Shots were fired and all three men were taken to the hospital. The men were found with two weapons on them.
Roland and Robinson both died as a result of their injuries during the situation with police.
Smith was arrested in connection to the crime when he was released from the hospital. He was charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery, and first degree kidnapping.
On November 14, Smith's trial went before a judge, but was continued until December 19.
In his first public statement about the shootings, Chief Evangelous said officers were working with Leland Police over the past few weeks on a string of armed robbery cases. They believe that Leland was looking for the same suspects and officers had multiple locations on surveillance, including the Pizza Hut last Friday.
Law enforcement released Wednesday the 911 calls and police radio traffic from the incident.
"There have been multiple shots fired," the caller told 911 operators. "I'm at work and I had patients jump out of the bed in the middle of sleep studies. I would say about six, approximately. I mean right outside."
Another caller said she heard gunshots from her bedroom.
"I just heard gunshots. I'm lying here in my bed trying to work on my computer...and we just heard gunshots."
Chief Evangelous confirmed during a press conference that the WPD was tipped off about the robbery.
In the radio traffic, you can hear officers call in the robbery before the Pizza Hut does:
"64 to central"
"10-65 [robbery], Pizza Hut, 17th and Wellington"
Also on the traffic you can hear:
"We are receiving information that it's in progress, we still have no call."
Then officers on the scene report seeing the suspects come outside, about 45 seconds later, officers report that shots are fired.
According to 911 calls, witnesses heard multiple shots go off.
"It sounded like a handgun...something that could fire quickly, multiple rounds, shots back-to-back-to-back," the caller said.
After reporting the gunshots officers call for EMS - then you can here the following exchange:
"We are going to need more units over here"
"Do you need a perimeter or do you have them down"
"We have one on the ground and they are challenging someone"
Then there is silence and you can hear that more officers arrive and EMS is told to wait until the scene is clear. That happens around 11:59 p.m.
All three suspects were taken to the hospital, where Robinson and Roland later died.
Smith made his first court appearance Monday, where his parents made a point to support him.
"We love our son. Jalani is a good child," said his mother, Regina Smith. "Unfortunately they made bad decisions and we can't take that back."
"We as parents would like to apologize on our kid's mistake," said Frederick Smith, taking responsibility for his son's actions. "Hopefully this is a learning curve for all others."
Officials believe the young men may have been tied to several business robberies in both Brunswick and New Hanover Counties.
All six officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave until the outcome of the SBI investigation. Their identities are not being released until that is complete.
Listen to the 911 calls in the section above. On mobile? Be sure to download the free WECT News App for iPhone and Android to listen to the calls. You can find them in the video section.
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