LUMBERTON — D.J. Powers thought he had captured the bad guy.
But soon enough, he felt like he was the bad guy.
Powers is the man who is credited with capturing a bank robbery suspect at gunpoint when he saw the man wandering around his back yard the morning after the Jan. 23 robbery of PNC Bank at gunpoint. Powers posted short videos of the capture Facebook, and soon there were expletive-laced messages headed his way on social media.
“I understand that I had to suffer a bit of a drawback with it,” said Powers, an 82nd Airborne Division veteran. “But it did more good than harm, I think.”
He didn’t think he would be criticized for apprehending a suspected armed robber, or a trespasser at the very least.
“I got threatened with a drive-by shooting,” he said. “My family has been threatened, too.”
Memes about him have been created, Powers said. Some have called him racist. The alleged robber he helped capture was black.
“I’ve had memes about me on the Internet. It’s ridiculous. Everybody who knows me, knows I am not racist,” he said. “I’ve had to sleep beside every race known to man. I am ex-military.”
Powers, 41, began Jan. 24 the same way he starts every weekday. He got up, took a shower and watched a bit of TV before getting dressed to go to Robeson Community College, where he is pursuing an associate’s in arts degree. Then movement on his security monitor put him on alert.
A man could be seen on on the surveillance system monitor coming out of the trees bordering Powers’ property on Old Whiteville Road and walking toward Powers’ storage shed. He was shuffling around cautiously.
“I was getting ready for school. I see this guy walking up that ain’t supposed to be there,” Powers said. “Then I see him look through the crack of the doors to the shed, back there.”
All-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes are stored in that shed, he said. When he saw the unknown man tamper with the lock, he grabbed his Glock 9 and went outside to investigate.
With only a gun and dressed in his briefs, Powers ran outside and ordered the unknown man, later identified as Rashad Young, to the ground.
“I didn’t have time to put my clothes on. I was in my underwear,” he said. “I asked him what he was doing in my backyard.”
Young said he gotten into a fight with his girlfriend, and she had ordered him out of their car. Powers was skeptical.
“Why would he go in the woods? I would have stayed on the road,” Powers said. “I heard about the bank robbery the night before. My family members live within a 10-mile radius of me. We were on alert.”
Powers realized he didn’t have his phone and headed for the door to his house. Young got up and started running toward the trees from where he had come.
Now armed with an AK-47 and his phone, Powers chased Young down and ordered him to lie beside the road while he called 911.
“I couldn’t hold him all day, I had to get my phone,” Powers said. “If it wasn’t for his pants, I wouldn’t have caught him.”
Powers said Young had each pant leg covering each foot, and was carrying his boots, as if trying not to leave footprints.
In less than 10 minutes, Powers said sheriff’s deputies, a Lumberton police cruiser and an unmarked FBI vehicle descended on his property.
“They took the guy away in one of the cars. I didn’t see which one,” Powers said. “I heard later they let him go.”
Young was questioned by the FBI and then released for lack of probable cause, Lumberton police Capt. Terry Parker at the time. He was dropped off at Walmart.
Lawmen later discovered clothing and collected additional evidence connecting Young to the bank robbery. After a search, Young was arrested and jailed in the Robeson County Detention Center under a $1 million secured bond.
Young, 26, of 421 W. Lewis St. in Whiteville, was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, and five counts of assault on law enforcement officers with a firearm.
Also charged in connection to the bank robbery are Daquan Pridgen, Demetris “Boo Boo” Sean Robinson, Jeramie Ross Vaughn, and a fifth unidentified person. All are from the Whiteville area.
Four people disguised in masks, gloves and glasses, robbed the bank about 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 23. The robbers were seen coming out of the bank by Lumberton police offices and a high-speed chase ensued during which gunfire was exchanged. The chase ended when the gray Saturn the robbers were in wrecked in Columbus County. The robbers then fled into woods.
The launched a manhunt that involved multiple law enforcement agencies on the local, state and federal levels that lasted several days. Police have said they recovered some money, but $40,000 is still missing.
“I was upset once I found out that they let him go, a deputy told me that they found clothing in a dumpster,” Powers said. “Now, I am glad they let him go. They ended up getting him cause of the clothes.”
The city of Lumberton will honor Powers, making him the first recipient of a new Pride in Lumberton pin.
Powers said he had joked earlier about running into a bank robber while out on his four-wheeler.
“I was telling my friends that day about jumping on my four-wheeler and catching me a bank robber,” Powers said. “I didn’t think I actually would.”
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.