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News WNC Student convicted of December SECU robbery

WCU student Bryan Anthony Edward robbed a State Employee Credit Union at “toy gunpoint” on Dec. 14.Use of toy gun results in shorter sentence for common law robbery

The 21-year-old Western Carolina University student arrested for robbing a State Employees Credit Union (SECU) near campus on Dec. 14 was convicted and sentenced in Superior Court in Jackson County on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Bryan anthony Edwards was sentenced to a minimum of 10 months and a maximum of 21 months to be served in the North Carolina Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to Common law robbery.

The fact that Edwards used a toy gun, which under the law is not a dangerous weapon, is the reason he was convicted of common law robbery and not robbery with a dangerous weapon, which were the original charges.

“I commend the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office for its swift response and quick action to solve this robbery within hours,” said District Attorney Michael Bonfoey, “Sheriff Jimmy Ashe and the other officers that responded to the scene and caught Edwards performed very professionally and apprehended the defendant and solved the crime very quickly. Trooper Stephens did excellent police work in locating the vehicle used. The identification of the vehicle led directly to the apprehension of Edwards,” he concluded.

According to District Attorney Michael Bonfoey’s office, Edwards entered the Cullowhee branch of the SECU wearing a partial mask, sunglasses and a hooded jacket to disguise his appearance. After approaching a bank teller, Edwards brandished what appeared to be a firearm, but was letter determined to be a toy gun. After demanding money, Edwards was given a money bag with cash and a dye pack before exiting the bank.

According to eye witness testimony, the dye pack went off while Edwards was attempting to flee the bank using a silver/ gray Geo Tracker.

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.

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 immediately contacted, at which point Officer Kent Davis was able to locate and apprehend Edwards. 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 Deputy Patrick McCoy and Sheriff Jimmy Ashe, at which time the suspect confessed to the robbery.

Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies found the black plastic gun under the front passenger seat of Edwards’ car hours after the robbery.

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