LUMBERTON — A Superior Court judge increased bond to $1 million Thursday for a Whiteville man arrested and charged in connection to Tuesday’s armed robbery of the PNC Bank in Lumberton.
Jeramie Ross Vaughn, 29, of Bitmore Road, was captured about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday on Peacock Road in Columbus County and taken to the Robeson County jail, where he was placed under a $150,000 bond.
A small amount of money was recovered when Vaughn was arrested, but $40,000 still is missing. The hunt continues for the other three bank robbers.
Judge William Moore listened to a summary of facts and assigned the Public Defender’s Office to represent Vaughn during a hearing held in the Robeson County Courthouse.
Assistant District Attorney Angelica McIntyre requested a substantial bond increase because of the severity of the crime and the danger Vaughn poses to the community. Matt McGregory, a public defender, contested the bail increase. McGregory appeared on Vaughn’s behalf during Vaughn’s initial court appearance today.
Vaughn is charged with robbery with dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and second-degree kidnapping, which is related to detaining bank employees.
Online court records show Vaughn has Feb. 27 court date for several traffic citations pending in Columbus County, including operating a vehicle with no insurance.
According to records with the N.C. Department of Public Safety Division of Adult Correction, Vaughn was convicted in 2014 on two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon (including conspiracy) in Robeson County. He served just over 13 months behind bars and was on parole for another year.
In 2011, he was convicted of speeding and driving with a revoked license.
Erich Hackney, an investigator with the Robeson County District Attorney’s Office who’s been involved with the investigation from the start, provided a summary of the facts and circumstances leading up to the standoff with the bank robbers.
Hackney told the court Thursday morning, based on information collected, four people cased the PNC bank located on Chestnut Street on Tuesday afternoon. They entered the bank’s lobby armed and wearing full head masks.
Numerous employees and customers were inside the bank when the armed robbery happened, Hackney said. No one was injured.
The robbers were seen by Lumberton police officers after they left the bank about 3:30 p.m., Hackney said. The officers gave chase through downtown Lumberton, at one point approaching an intersection full of traffic.
The chase continued down N.C. 211 while the bank robbers fired shots at pursuing police vehicles, he said. Bullets struck six police cruisers and a Robeson County Sheriff’s Office vehicle.
The chase and gunfire endangered two fully occupied buses carrying children home from school, Hackney said. The buses were not struck by bullets and no children were hurt.
As the bank robbers reached Allenton and Old Whiteville roads in Robeson County, they jumped from their car and began firing again at police and a gun battle ensued, the investigator told the court. One defendant fled into the woods behind a nearby store.
Officers from multiple law enforcement agencies joined the chase, which continued into Columbus County.
A second shootout began on Old Lumberton Road, Hackney said. The robbers ambushed pursuing officers when they exited a curve.
The third and final exchange occurred on Silver Spoon Road in Columbus County when officers arrived at a hill, he said.
As lawmen descended toward a swampy area, the bank robbers fired at officers in an ambush-style attack, Hackney said. A .380 caliber rifle with scope was recovered late Wednesday afternoon in a swampy area near the site of the gun battle.
Various firearms, including a Tec-9 pistol, a shotgun and an AR-15 rifle, used in the robbery also have been recovered, Hackney said.
As of late Wednesday afternoon 150 officers and agents from local, state federal law enforcement agencies were conducting a manhunt in a search area that spanned much of western Columbus County and parts of neighboring Bladen and Robeson counties, according to Robeson County Sheriff Ken Sealey. The search for the robbers was being coordinated by a command center set up in the the Allenton Volunteer Fire Department building, located on Old Whiteville Road.
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office joined the search efforts Wednesday morning. They were working and searching alongside deputies from Robeson, Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus counties; agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, the State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI; officers from the Fayetteville Police Department and the Lumberton Police Department, which has taken lead on the case.
The Fayetteville Police Department has supplied officers to assist in the ground effort and three drones to assist in the air, Sealey said.
People in the area should stay vigilant and call the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office if they see anything suspicious, Sealey said. The number is 910-671-3100; callers can remain anonymous.
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