Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Captain Tony Surles Arrested on Felony Charges

A Roseboro police captain has been arrested on a felony charge for allegedly using town funds to purchase a transmission for a vehicle not owned by the town or its police department.

Capt. Tony Surles, of the Roseboro Police Department, turned himself in to investigators at the Sampson County Law Enforcement Center Monday. He was charged with obtaining property by false pretenses, a felony offense.

Authorities said the arrest was the culmination of a two-month joint investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office. The probe was conducted at the request of the Roseboro Board of Commissioners.

“The town board, through our attorney, requested an investigation into some alleged inconsistencies in our town policies and procedures,” Roseboro mayor Roland Hall said when reached by phone Monday night.

According to sheriff’s officials, the investigation was initiated after town officials discovered that a false purchase order number from the town of Roseboro was used to obtain a vehicle transmission for a style of vehicle that is not in the town’s fleet.

The mayor said the decision was made by the town board “to seek out whatever agency was appropriate to conduct the investigation.”

The Sheriff’s Office took over the investigation and discussed the case with the District Attorney’s Office before obtaining a warrant on Surles.

“After conducting interviews and examining evidence collected, investigators consulted with District Attorney Dewey Hudson, who decided that sufficient probable cause was available to charge Surles,” a press release from the Sheriff’s Office stated.

Upon turning himself in, Surles was administratively processed at the Sampson County Detention Center Monday evening and released under a $500 unsecured bond.

Surles served in an interim capacity as police chief for a short time in 2006 before Preston Howell Jr. was hired to the chief’s post. Later that same year, then-chief Howell promoted Surles from sergeant to captain, a position in which Surles has served since then.

Hall said Monday night that he could not speak to any additional disciplinary action that would be taken by the town of Roseboro in light of the felony charge against Surles.

“I’m not in a position where I can make any comment on that right now,” Hall said. “The board is not in session until tomorrow night (Tuesday).”

The Roseboro mayor said board members would likely discuss the issue at that time.

“We will deal with that, probably in closed session because it is a personnel matter,” said Hall.

Officers Accused of Using Excessive Force

Police are under fire again for using excessive force.

Onset resident Paul Andrade, 52, recounted his story to the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night.

Andrade told the board he was driving down Depot Street with his brother behind a police car Saturday, Sept. 6. When the two cars got to the Onset VFW, the officer pulled over to the side of the road and let Andrade pass. As soon as Andrade passed the police car, it began to follow him up the street.

“I told my brother that he was going to stop us,” Andrade said.

Andrade pulled into the parking lot of the Oak Grove Package Store and got out of the car. The police car began flashing its blue lights and the officer, who Andrade identified as Charles Pillsbury, instructed Andrade to get back into his vehicle.

While Andrade repeatedly noted that he had something of a checkered past with the Wareham Police Department, he said he had done a lot to straighten out his life. When the officer asked to see his license and registration, Andrade asked why he had been pulled over; he claimed that Pillsbury told him that he didn’t need a reason.

He then told Andrade to step out of the vehicle. Andrade said he protested briefly, and he repeatedly asked the officer why he had been stopped. During this back and forth exchange between Andrade and Pillsbury, the officer sprayed him with mace. Andrade said that by the time the package store manager tried to intervene, Pillsbury must have used almost the whole can of mace.

Pillsbury then placed Andrade under arrest for disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, failure to produce a license and registration, threat to commit murder, threat to commit bodily harm and failure to signal a turn.

In addition to the charges, Andrade’s car was towed, in spite of an offer from his brother to drive it back home and from the store manager to allow it to be left until Andrade could claim it. Andrade’s dogs were also taken to Dartmouth animal shelter, and he has yet to get his license and registration back.

The complaint comes on the heels of a recent accusation that officers used excessive force against a teenaged girl during an arrest in Onset earlier this summer.

Selectman Bruce Sauvageau offered one explanation, referencing accusations that the police were targeting the Cape Verdean community.

“I also notice you’re a black man, and that was your first mistake,” he said.

Sauvageau also called Officer Pillsbury a “disgrace,” and he claimed that this was the “natural result” of nepotism. Pillsbury’s mother, Mary Jane Pillsbury, is a former selectman and retired library director.