By Kevin Hogencamp
WALB-TV General Manager Jim Wilcox isn’t timid. As such, he fired off a point-blank letter Friday to Albany City Manager Alfred Lott asking why it took 19 days for police to release a surveillance tape of the July 3 robbery shooting of P&P Garden and Hardware Store owner Walter Phelps. WALB’s airing of the tape ultimately helped police solve the case.
Wilcox also wanted to know why it took police nine days to learn that Phelps’ credit card was used in Lake Park, Ga., three hours after the incident.
“What if these jerks hurt or even killed others after the Phelps shooting?” Wilcox said Tuesday in an WALB editorial sharply criticizing Police Chief John Proctor’s department. “Police should not waste precious time in getting us all surveillance video available. They clearly will have the best chance for catching these crooks, if they ask for the public’s help.”
Wilcox got a quick reply Monday from Proctor – but not an answer to his questions.
“July 14th, detectives received information regarding the use of the victim’s credit cards at the Outlet Mall in Lake Park, Georgia. The detective responded and retrieved a copy of a transaction video on the date of the notification …” Proctor said in a memorandum to Lott when Lott followed up on Wilcox’s behalf. “July 22nd, the video was released to the media for airing during a news cast …”
Wilcox knew that already.
“It’s not like this is the first time surveillance video on TV led to arrests. And the police know this,” Wilcox said in his editorial. “They know, there is an 80-percent capture rate with WALB’s “Most Wanted” segments.
“Police are constantly telling the public to pay attention, report suspicious activity, watch out for your neighbors. And the public has proven time and again they want to help. So we say this to all law enforcement. When you have a picture of criminals, show the public.”
Phelps is recovering from his wound. Meanwhile, Lott has refused to require Proctor to provide the requested information, which is a matter of public record.
The Police Department’s withholding of the video, 11-day response time on the credit card transaction and failure to answer Wilcox’s questions aren’t the only mishap in the case. Jordan Harris, who is charged with shooting Phelps in the back, was wearing an electronic house arrest monitor when he was arrested and District Attorney Greg Edwards is attempting to find out why the monitoring system failed.
Following is the entire text of Proctor’s memorandum:
“This memorandum is sent for the purposes of providing you with time line information on the P & P Garden’s & Hardware Robbery and Shooting. As has been revealed, the incident occurred at 2500 North Slappey Boulevard on July 3, 2010 at approximately 07:57 a.m. Unfortunately, this case is still under active investigation and the information that may be released is limited. I can assure you that the Investigators have worked this case aggressively, even while working on other cases that were occurring during the same time frame.
Below is the time line:
Incident occurred on July 3, 2010 at approximately 07:57 a.m.
Between the date of the occurrence and July 14th, investigators followed leads and sought aid of the victim and other sources to identify potential suspects.
July 14th, detectives received information regarding the use of the victim’s credit cards at the Outlet Mall in Lake Park, Georgia. The detective responded and retrieved a copy of a transaction video on the date of the notification.
July 15th and July 16th, efforts were made to get the subjects on the video identified via the victim and other investigative sources. These efforts were met with negative results.
July 20th, the Albany Police Department’s Media Manager was consulted and after copying the video, it was prepared for release.
July 22nd, the video was released to the media for airing during a news cast.
On July 26th, detectives received information from Albany Crime Stoppers identifying several suspects who were later arrested. The initial arrest included Ezekial James and Jamon Carter.
On July 27th, Jordan Harris was arrested.
On July 29th, several other suspects were located and arrested. The included Roderick Ferrell and Ryan Richardson.
Though much work has occurred in this case, there still are persons of interest we are still seeking at this time. As I have stated previously, we are extremely thankful to the members of the community and the media who provided assistance in identifying and locating these individuals.
If you have additional questions, please contact my office.”