NASHVILLE, N.C. — A suspect accused of robbing five banks across the eastern part of the state, including a First Citizens Bank branch in Clinton, was apprehended in Virginia, the result of collaboration between law enforcement agencies working together to protect their towns, Nash County Sheriff’s officials said.
During a Friday press conference at the Nash County Sheriff’s Office, located about an hour and a half north of Clinton, Sheriff Keith Stone and Capt. Todd Wells addressed the arrest of Nathan Terry Bullock, 58, how the bank robbery events unfolded and details that led to his capture.
Officers from police departments in Clinton, Wilson, Rocky Mount and Kenly were present at Friday’s press conference. The U.S. Marshals Service, King George County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and Goldsboro Police Department also assisted in the investigation.
Bullock is currently being held at the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Virginia awaiting extradition following his arrest on Jan. 15.
“He pulled 25 years of a 50-year sentence for robberies in our communities,” said Stone, who noted the Bullock had several listed addresses but was said to primarily located in Goldsboro. “He’s been back out in the community and, as you can see from these bank robberies, he was back in the same game that he left from when he pulled time.”
The sheriff thanked the agencies involved in Bullock’s apprehension and Wells stressed that it would not have been possible without them.
“When you have robberies and they continue on, often violence follows this,” Stone remarked. “This is a case where violence was stopped before it could happen.”
Bullock’s previous armed robbery and felony larceny convictions came in Wayne County in June 1991 and he actually served about 20 years of a 25 to 50 year sentence before being released in 2010. According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety, he had numerous other convictions of larceny, assault with a deadly weapon, trespassing, assault on a policeman and driving while impaired in the late 1970s and throughout the 80s in Wayne and Johnston counties. Authorities said he fell back into that.
“He got out in 2010 and started petty larcenies, communicating threats and things of that nature,” said Wells. “He spent most of his life behind bars so I can’t put myself in that position. The freedom we have, he’s given that up for 25 years and he’s had it now for about seven years, on and off, and he’s willing to completely give that back up. I can’t comprehend that.”
Bank robbery timeline
The string of robberies started on Dec. 9, the Wilson Police Department received a call of a bank robbery at the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) on Ward Boulevard. There was no vehicle description and no suspect apprehended.
It was not until nearly a month later, that the alleged suspect emerged again, at which point he reportedly hit two banks within an hour of each other.
On Jan. 3, the Nash County Sheriff’s Office received a call of an attempted bank robbery at Southern Bank in Red Oak. The suspect demanded $30,000 in cash. The teller was able to distract the suspect by asking questions and he fled on foot. Again, there was no vehicle description. Less than an hour later, the Rocky Mount Police Department received a call of a bank robbery at a SECU branch on North Fairview Road. The suspect demanded money then fled on foot.
Similar suspect descriptions were given in all three robberies. After a few days, the suspect struck again — at First Citizens Bank at 302 Northeast Blvd. in Clinton.
According to police reports, the suspect went to the bank teller and demanded money while showing a firearm. After receiving an undisclosed amount of cash, he fled the area in a dark colored Nissan Maxima.
The Clinton robbery was the first in which a vehicle description was established and a weapon spotted, Nash Sheriff’s authorities said.
“When this started, he was verbally asking for money or passing a note,” Wells said. “We determined that he had a weapon the whole time, but he only exposed it in the Clinton robbery.”
Clinton Police were immediately able to obtain clear surveillance images showing a black male with a light complexion. The suspect description, as well as the details of the robbery, matched that of the other incidents.
A week later, the Kenly Police Department received an armed robbery call from Southern Bank, located on West 2nd Street. It appeared to be the same suspect, but he was still not apprehended.
The Clinton Police Department’s Neighborhood Improvement Team worked with the Kenly Police Department and Nash County Sheriff’s Office. Kenly Police officers were able to identify the suspect as Bullock and agencies subsequently took out warrants for his arrest. In Clinton, he was wanted for robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of firearm by a felon. Similar warrants were taken out by others.
Wells said information pointed to Bullock escaping to Virginia to “hide out.”
Just a couple days after the last bank robbery in Kenly, Bullock was discovered in King George County, Virginia, and the SBI’s Violent Fugitive Task Force and the U.S. Marshals Service were contacted. Marshals, along with King George Sheriff’s authorities and the Virginia State Police took Bullock into custody on Jan. 15. The Nissan Maxima was also found there.
“He’s waived his extradition, so we’re just waiting now to get him back,” Wells said.
Wells said patrols were stepped up in Nash County, especially near banking branches. Clinton Police Lt. Anthony Davis said similar beefed-up patrols were occurring in Clinton, including parking patrol cars near banks as much as possible to have a constant presence. A bank robbery within the city limits is a rare occurrence.
“This is the first one that I know of,” said Davis, a longtime Clinton officer. Multi-county investigations that include federal and state authorities are not very common for small-town police departments either, he noted. “We’re not normally dealing with cases this widespread, especially when it goes into Virginia.”
For many of the small towns, Wells said, it was something completely new.
“The Kenly branch was about a block from the police department — very brazen,” said Wells. “We can’t tell if he was casing the banks beforehand but we (in Nash County) have stepped up our patrols to help the public feel comfortable.”
Stone and Wells both emphasized the importance not only of law agencies working together but the public providing key information and the media disseminating it.
“Without the media and the community,” said Stone, “we don’t have this accomplished.”
“In Clinton, we’re dealing with people an hour and a half away, so with the media able to put mugshots out there, it really brings everything together for us,” Wells added. “Every agency played some part in this.”
Kenly Police Lt. Casey Jones acknowledged the other agencies present and said cooperation between them solves crimes, extending the reach of a smaller department across the region and state.
“I think if anything, this has shown that when you go to a small town and commit a crime of a serious nature, that you’re not just dealing with a nine-officer agency,” Jones said. “You’re dealing with them, these guys behind me, (those) in Virginia. They are not dealing with just those nine officers. They are dealing with an entire state of officers.”
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