Witness 'played dead' as man robbed bank, police say


Police have identified a man who was shot and killed by officers after robbing a Wells Fargo bank in Salisbury on Thursday night.

During a press conference on Friday, authorities identified Paul Jones III, 25, as the robber in the case.

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Police responded to the bank on Jake Alexander Boulevard at approximately 5 p.m. Thursday, around the time the business was supposed to close.

Police said in their preliminary investigation that, during the bank robbery, a customer was shot and the robber then led police on a short chase.

Ramona Little said she was paying a bill and cashing a check when an armed and masked man stormed in and robbed the Wells Fargo Bank.

"I was just hysterical, had my hands up like this,” Little said.

Little said after the armed robber took a bag of money, he asked her and another customer for their car keys while threatening to kill them.

Little said the gunman shot a customer at the bank, and he fell back. Then, the robber shot at Little, who said she dropped and played dead.

"He said, 'Give me your keys,'" Little said. "You know, I'm scared, so I'm back, and back me and Jose. So he shot Jose. He falls. Then he shoots at me and I just fall back like I'm dead, too."

She said playing dead may have saved her life.

Little said she is still shaken up, but is relieved the robber is no longer a threat.

"I pray for him because I don't know who he is and I just hate that he couldn't think and take a moment just to say, ‘This is not worth my life,’” Little said.

On Friday, police identified the man who was shot as 61-year-old Jose Santiago. Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes said that Santiago was shot in the face by Jones.

After the shooting, Stokes said, Jones carjacked and shot Larry Darnell Dalton, 45, and drove off in Dalton’s 2015 Acura sedan.

"Apparently, the suspect exited the bank and took control of the vehicle and fled the scene,” Stokes said.

Police said officers spotted the car and chased Jones.

According to police, Jones then crashed into two vehicles.

Stokes said officers approached the car and that Jones fired at one of the officers. 

Stokes said officers fired back in defense and killed Jones. He called the officers' actions "controlled and not excessive."

“In my initial review of the information we have at this point, I am comfortable saying that all officers, including those who fired their weapons, acted with the utmost bravery and valor,” Stokes said. “They clearly saved other people’s lives yesterday. We don’t know what led Mr. Jones to commit these evil acts and we don’t know what else he could have done had the officers not been able to locate him fleeing the area.”

Jessica Barnhardt, on her last day at her job, had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette when she heard the gunshots.

"Then you heard, 'Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam,'” Barnhardt said. "I'm just thankful today is my last day."

Barnhardt said she saw officers surround the car and fire shots at the robber.

She said it sounded as if the first two shots came from inside the car, but then she saw police surround the car and fire the next series of shots.

"You heard the cops shooting back, like, six or 10 shots. I mean, plenty of shots, to kill someone,” Barnhardt said. "Everybody out here in front of our parking lot was hiding behind cars. There is people outside yelling at other people to get down and people ducking. It was pretty chaotic for a little bit."

Barnhardt said she saw one of the officers standing at the driver’s side window of the car.

"He was, like, up in the car, shooting inside of it," she said.

Stokes said three officers -- Sgt. Michael Colvin, Officer Jay Basinger and Officer Joseph Martinez -- fired their weapons at Jones.

Stokes said he reviewed body camera footage from the shooting and said that Jones fired at least one shot and possibly more at Basinger.

Basinger fired back and looked for cover, Stokes said, and Colvin and Martinez then shot at Jones.

Stokes said it is not yet known which officer hit Jones with their shots. No officers were injured during the shooting.

After Jones was shot, Stokes said, officers removed him from the car and administered first aid. Stokes said Jones was conscious for a time, but he died shortly after emergency medical services arrived on at the scene.

The bank customer who was shot, Santiago, is in “very critical condition,” according to Stokes.

Stokes said Dalton, the carjacking victim, is in stable condition after being shot in the head and arm by Jones.

Officials said both Santiago and Dalton are patients at Baptist Hospital after being flown from Rowan Regional Medical Center on Thursday.

The FBI and State Bureau of Investigation are assisting the Salisbury Police Department with the investigation of the bank robbery, the officer-involved shooting and other possible crimes committed by Jones.

Stokes said the three officers who fired their weapons have been placed on limited duty, per standard procedure.

“I am saddened by the events of yesterday,” Stokes said. “No officer wants to take a life, and the violence has no doubt affected our community sense of safety."

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