SALISBURY, N.C. — Police have identified a man who was shot and killed by officers after robbing a Wells Fargo bank in Salisbury on Thursday night.
Authorities identified the robber as Paul Jones III, 25, during a press conference on Friday.
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 they found in their preliminary investigation that during the bank robbery, a customer was shot in the bank 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.
"I was just hysterical; had my hands up like this,” Little said, along with a gesture.
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 another 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."
Little 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.
Police identified the victim shot as 61-year-old Jose Santiago on Friday. 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 near Lincolnton Road and Fulton Street and chased Jones.
According to police, Jones then crashed into two vehicles near the intersection of Jake Alexander Boulevard and Mooresville Road.
Stokes said officers approached the car and Jones fired at one of the officers.
Stokes said officers fired back and killed Jones, and 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.”
"The sirens came down through here and they were chasing a black car," witness Jim Hartline said. "I kept hearing people say, 'Get out, get out.' The next thing you know, I heard two shots, and after that, I heard a lot more shots."
Jessica Barnhardt, on her last day at her job, 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 like the first two shots came from inside of the car, but then she saw police surround it 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 fired their weapons at Jones: Sgt. Michael Colvin, Officer Jay Basinger and Officer Joseph Martinez.
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 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, 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."
People in Salisbury said they are still rattled.
Lisa Kennerly said she doesn't like to leave her house after dark because she’s afraid of being violently robbed or hurt.
"It worries me. It concerns me and it does scare me,” Kennerly said.
Channel 9 spoke to people at businesses in the plaza, including a nail salon that locked its doors during open hours, to find out if they're doing anything differently after this robbery.
"It's scary to know. It's something that can happen anywhere,” hairstylist Olivia Greco said. "Just trying to look out for one another and kind of take extra precautions especially when it comes to money handling and things like that."
Crime in Salisbury has been an increasing problem.
Employees in the area said they would like to see officers assigned to the strip to deter criminals.
"Even with all the street lights, it is nice to know that there is someone you can go to at any point in time,” Greco said.
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