ROSEBORO — Residents of a quiet neighborhood are still shaken by the events of a recent Sunday morning, when a man fleeing from the scene of a home invasion banged on doors and busted out windows at several homes in the early morning hours — all while armed with an assault rifle — in a frantic effort to reportedly get help.
Residents of two homes on North Pine Street reported damage to windows and doors as a result, but Oscar Williams said the damage is more than just superficial.
“Now I have it haunting me. I’m speaking for my neighborhood. You have elderly people here, people who live alone,” Williams said. “My wife is still shaken up over this thing. He has terrorized our street, our neighborhood.”
“We never had anything in this neighborhood going on like that,” neighbor Gladys Dawson echoed. “We’re getting back to normal, but I get kind of paranoid when I hear knocking on the door.”
The residences of Oscar and Evelyn Williams and Clarence and Gladys Dawson residents are located across from each other in the 400 block of North Pine Street, Roseboro. Both sustained damage as a result of the Jan. 22 craziness.
They later found that the man armed with an AR-15 assault rifle had escaped his own trauma moments earlier from a home about a mile away, on Lucas Road, that ultimately spilled onto North Pine Street.
“He was out there in the yard, in the driveway, shooting,” said Williams. “Clarence told his family (inside) to get down.”
Williams said he and his wife were awakened to booming sounds in the early-morning hours Jan. 22, which they first believed to be thunder due to some expected storms. He went to check it out and moments later heard glass shattering.
“I hit the floor — somebody’s breaking into my house,” Williams said. He had his wife call 911 and they hit their security system’s panic button. “I heard his footsteps around my doorway.”
Williams, armed with his own weapon, fired a warning shot out the front window, through the blinds, fearing the worst from the shadowy figure on his doorstep.
“I opened the door and saw him going down the steps. I said ‘halt,’” Williams recalled. The man, later identified as Rolando A. Torres, 24, pleaded for Williams not to kill him.
“I had him at gunpoint,” he said. “I’m a war veteran, I don’t play that stuff. This thing was happening so fast. It was like a firefight. I don’t care if he was trying to elude someone. I was scared for my life. I know about post traumatic stress disorder.”
He found the assault rifle leaning up against his house. Williams knew exactly what it was, calling it a “gruesome looking weapon.” He had his wife get him a shirt and shoes, as he had just gotten out of bed, and detained Torres until deputies arrived.
“He should be arrested and locked up,” Williams said Wednesday, expressing frustration that Torres was released.
When contacted about Williams’ concerns, Sheriff’s Lt. Marcus Smith offered some details on the Jan. 22 home invasion, for which two men have been arrested and another is still at large. He said Torres was indeed a victim in that incident, but said Williams’ account was “100 percent correct.”
Smith said Torres was at a friend’s residence at 386 Lucas Road, Roseboro, that night when suspects invaded the home and held Torres and two others at gunpoint. Shots were fired in that Lucas Road incident, according to initial reports.
“After a brief altercation, Torres was able to wrestle away the firearm from one of the suspects then fled on foot. Torres, fearing for his life and fearing that the suspects may be chasing him, ran through the neighborhood seeking help from residents,” Smith stated.
That included knocking on doors and windows on North Pine Street, about a mile from the Lucas Road address.
“All they saw was a guy with a gun,” Smith said of the homeowners. “They contacted 911 and deputies responded. Shots were fired, but it is unknown at this time who fired the shots. Property was damaged, but not as a result of shots being fired. Mr. Williams held (Torres) at gunpoint until authorities arrived and could sort the situation out.”
Upon their arrival, deputies were just as perplexed as the North Pine Street residents, Smith noted.
“They were like the homeowners — they didn’t know what was going on,” said Smith. “(Torres) was charged with damage to property. After everything was sorted out, it was found that he was the victim and he was seeking help.”
Sheriff’s deputies arrested two Roseboro men in the days following the home invasion, which occurred at 3 a.m. Jan. 22 at the Lucas Road residence.
Through investigation, it was determined that three suspects — Rodney Derreck Williams, 28, and Linwood Dion Rich, 16, both of Roseboro, and Jimmy McKoy Rouse, 21, of Clinton — were involved in the home invasion. Investigators subsequently arrested Williams and Rich on charges of first-degree burglary, two counts of first-degree kidnapping and felony conspiracy. Williams received an additional charge of probation violation.
Both were placed in the Sampson County Detention Center, Rich under a $1M bond and Williams under $1.025M bond. Rouse is still at large and considered to be armed and dangerous. Investigators are seeking information on his whereabouts.
Following those arrests, Capt. Doyle Grady spoke with Williams and his wife face to face at length last week and said it was a productive conversation. Grady said he wanted to explain some of the intricacies of the case, without getting too much into details that would compromise an ongoing investigation.
“His biggest thing to me was that people in this world are sometimes complacent,” Grady recalled. “Neighbors live alone and there are others who can’t help themselves. He said, ‘I’m glad (he) came to my house, because I can do something. (Williams) was a very nice guy.”
Regardless of the circumstances of another ongoing case, and Torres’ being the victim in the Lucas Road incident, Williams said he simply does not understand how man who is a convicted felon can have a firearm and there are no repercussions.
“A felon should not have that — they aren’t allowed to have that. He had an assault rifle and he was locked and loaded and they’re going to let him go,” he asserted. “Even if they were chasing him with a bazooka or an M1 tank, this maniac is in the neighborhood terrorizing residents.”
“He fired the weapon,” said Williams. “They know he fired it.”
Williams recently took his wife down to New Bern just to get away from Sampson County for a while.
“I had to get my wife out of there — not out of North Carolina, but out of Roseboro,” he said. “We wanted to get away from everything and get back to normal. PTSD is real. You don’t know how this guy is going to affect these people for the rest of their lives.”
Williams’ pastor Dr. Eddie Parker, who preaches at Mingle Hill Disciples of Christ Church, Salemburg, checked in on his friend’s home on Wednesday. He remembered getting a frantic call around 4 a.m. that Sunday.
“She was frightened, just horrified,” he said of Mrs. Williams. “She heard gunfire and didn’t know what had happened. I remember when my house was broken into and how that affected my wife, and it was nothing in the middle of the night with gunshots.”
Williams is a member of the Planning and Zoning Board, active in his community and an easy-going, friendly person, Parker said. In fact, despite that Jan. 22 incident, he was at Sunday School just hours later.
“This is a peaceful neighborhood. It is serene,” Parker said as a school bus passed by the North Pine Street home, still damaged from the events a week and a half earlier. “Everybody knows everybody. We don’t have that type of activity.”
Williams, whose home is being monitored through his security system, has the incident on tape. Parker said he looked at it.
He said the video shows Torres walking up the steps, putting the barrel of the rifle through the window. He then sits down in a chair on the porch before getting up moments later, and putting the butt of the gun through an unbroken portion of the window.
“There is no knocking,” Parker said.
Sheriff’s officials praised Williams for his actions that night.
“We applaud Mr. Williams for his help, for defending his property and for contacting authorities,” Smith said. “He may very well have saved Torres’ life. There could have been further incidents in the neighborhood if the suspects had chased him.”
Torres was taken to the hospital, reportedly for chest pains. In addition to the damage to property charge, he was served several orders for his arrest on traffic-related offenses. The N.C. Department of Public Safety on Wednesday had Torres listed as an absconder. Smith said deputies serving charges reported that was not his status prior to their charges being served.
Court records show Torres does have a history of breaking and entering and larceny in Sampson. His most recent conviction was on a charge of possession of a controlled substance in December 2016. He received a suspended sentence and 18 months probation.
Smith stressed that Rouse was the real suspect, the third being sought in connection with the Lucas Road home invasion, and he is still on the loose.
Residents have already been urged to use caution as Rouse should be considered armed and dangerous. He is described as being approximately 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing 136 pounds.
“We are still urging the public’s assistance in seeking information as to the whereabouts of Jimmy Rouse,” Smith said.
Anyone with information on Rouse is asked to call the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office at 910-592-4141 or call 911. The Crime Tip Line can also be reached at 910-564-5261.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.