Friday, January 25, 2013
Rockwall police chief apologizes for mistakes, miscommunication during armed arrest
He said more details might have changed his decisions.
ROCKWALL Rockwall Police Chief Mark Moeller apologized to about 80 Lakeside Village subdivision residents at their community center for errors he said he made in judgment and communications during the capture and arrest of armed felon Cody Lee Welborn last Friday night through early Saturday morning.
Welborn stole a rifle, ammunition, and a laptop from the vehicle of a Lakeside Village resident who was in the midst of packing his unlocked vehicle right next to his house to leave on a hunting trip Friday night.
Chief Moeller said if he knew then what he knows now about the situation, he would have ordered Rockwall police to handle the situation differently.
He also pledged to make improvements in communications and several other areas in the future when there are similar situations in the city.
“We thought we did the right thing,” he said. “Hindsight is 20-20. If we knew then what we know now, we would have had a different response.”
Answering residents’ questions, he explained that he ordered police to leave the scene Friday night because he wanted to avoid an armed confrontation with a potentially dangerous suspect in the subdivision.
He explained police strategy was to pull back from the scene and hope they could arrest him outside the subdivision later that night or in the morning when the suspect was outside of the subdivision.
“We made a call in this case about something that could go in either direction,” he said. “We were hoping to make the arrest away from the scene. I assure you that we discussed all options.”
He said that he realizes many residents don’t feel he made the right decision and said he was sorry for not making an additional call to the Lieutenant on the scene.
“I understand you don’t agree. Had I made a call-back to the scene, more than likely I would have made a different decision.”
Chief Moeller also clarified that the stolen gun was a .22 gauge rifle, and not an assault rifle, although resident John Mitchell disagreed, stating he understood it was an AR-15 – AR standing for Assault Rifle.
Craig Morrissey, the father of the young man whose gun was stolen, confirmed that it is a .22 gauge rifle designed to look like a semi-automatic assault rifle. He told The Rockwall News that the gun is a Ruger 10/22 .22 caliber carbine, “dressed up to look like an AR-15.”
About half a dozen residents either asked questions or made comments.
Mitchell said he absolutely could not understand why Chief Moeller ordered police officers to leave the subdivision with an armed felon inside a condo who was obviously agitated.
“Didn’t you know that the suspect shouted out, 'F___ You,' when police told him to come out of the condo? That should have been a signal to you that this was a very dangerous situation."
Chief Moeller said he was not told about that.
Mitchell added that many of the residents in Lakeside Village know each other and knew where the suspect was hiding, but police wouldn’t listen to the residents who were trying to help police to find him.
“For example, did you know his girlfriend was texting him during the entire time that police were searching for him, telling the suspect what was going on outside the condo?”
Chief Moeller admitted that he didn’t realize that either.
Resident Terry Stephenson, who lives right next door to where the suspect was holed up, in an adjoining building, said he was very upset that officers did not explain the situation to him while the incident was ongoing. He said had officers told him that a potentially dangerous ex-con was next door with a stolen gun and ammunition, he would have taken his family and left their condo immediately.
“Someone should have told us,” he said. “You’ve gotta communicate with us. You can’t drive off and leave us alone.”
Chief Moeller responded that police should have told him what was happening.
“Yes, that’s something we really need to work on. If we’re going to make entry, we need to notify residents. We will certainly do that. We need to make a better effort.”
Other complaints made were about officers speeding through the subdivision during the incident, while many residents had no idea what was taking place.
“They could have injured children playing outside,” one resident said.
Resident Rachel Selman asked what Lakeside Village can do to prevent additional criminal activity.
“I’m sorry to condo owners to say this but there’s a lot of trouble in the condos now and it’s escalating,” she said. “Residents are angry because it’s escalating and escalating. I’m glad police admitted tonight that they made mistakes.”
Asked if they were pleased with the results of the meeting, Mitchell said, “Absolutely not!”
On the other hand, another resident who asked his name not be used, said he was pleased that Chief Moeller took responsibility for his mistakes and pledged to make necessary changes.
Chief Moeller confirmed that Welborn remains in the Rockwall County Jail, with several different charges pending against him. He added that Welborn’s girlfriend was initially arrested but is now free after posting bond. Another young woman associated with the case was also arrested for possession of drugs.
Attending the meeting besides the Chief were RPD Assistant Chief Kirk Riggs, RPD Public Information Officer Jeff Welch, and Rockwall City Council member Bennie Daniels.
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