Last Wednesday at approximately 10:20 a.m. the Cullowhee Branch of the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union was robbed by an armed and masked white male later identified as 21-year-old Brian Anthony Edwards, according to Jackson County Sheriff's Office.
The robbery suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of United States currency. A dye pack which was placed in the bag by an employee of the bank did go off while the suspect was fleeing the scene.
The communities around Western Carolina University were advised to “Shelter in Place” and to remain where they were until the suspect could be apprehended. Both WCU and Cullowhee Valley Elementary school were placed under a lock down after WCU police were able to confirm the suspect was armed.
WCU police and State Highway Patrol officer Trooper Murico Stephens were the first to respond. WCU police stationed themselves at all entrances while a search for the suspect was conducted.
Several eye witnesses were able to give authorities a vehicle description, identifying the suspect’s vehicle as a Geo Tracker.
After Trooper Stephens received a dispatch call with the description of the suspect and the vehicle, he began a methodical search of the Cullowhee community to include dorms, trailer parks and other housing areas. While patrolling the Catamount Peaks Apartments Complex, Trooper Stephens located a vehicle that matched the description given by the Jackson County's Sheriff's Office.
The State Bureau of Investigation requested the Highway Patrol helicopter, which monitored Trooper Stephen’s radio traffic and arrived on the scene as well. The helicopter circled the apartment building while ground units investigated. It was discovered that the suspect had left the area and proceeded in another vehicle towards the WCU Campus.
WCU Campus Police were contacted and were able to locate the suspect. By 12:45 p.m. officers had subsequently made contact with the suspect and took him into custody without incident. The suspect was returned to the apartment complex for further questioning by detectives, at which time the suspect confessed to the armed robbery.
The suspect is identified as 21-year-old, Western Carolina University junior and computer information system major, Brian Anthony Edwards.
After a search warrant was executed on Edwards' apartment and vehicle, law enforcement officers recovered the weapon used in the robbery, the United States currency taken, as well as other items related to the suspect regarding the case.
Edwards was charged with armed robbery and possession of stolen property and is being held in Jackson County Detention Center on a quarter million dollar bond and appeared in court on Dec. 20., at which point the judge granted a continuous of the case until Jan. 4, 2012.
The Jackson County's Sheriff's Office was assisted by the Sylva Police Department, North Carolina Highway Patrol, and Western Carolina University Police Department.