Police officers testify in trial of accused bank robber

DOVER — Three police officers recounted a high-speed pursuit after a 2011 bank robbery that stretched approximately 15 miles through Kent County, testifying Wednesday that their vehicles were struck by gunfire several times before a fleeing SUV crashed.

Police described a suspect repeatedly shooting at them from a vehicle’s sunroof intermittently for possibly up to 20 minutes following an incident at the First National Bank of Wyoming in Felton on Aug. 26, 2011,

Cross-examined by defendant Russell Grimes — representing himself in the jury trial — the officers from the state police, and the Harrington and Felton police departments confirmed they never saw a driver firing or in possession of a weapon.

One officer described the driver as a black male with a light beard based on what he saw from about 50 yards away.

05dsn Russell M. Grimes by .

Russell M. Grimes

It was the second day of the trial in Kent County Superior Court for Mr. Grimes, accused of driving a getaway car following the alleged robbery.

He is charged with first-degree robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, second-degree conspiracy, five counts of second-degree reckless endangering, and possession of a firearm/ammunition by person prohibited.

On July 13, co-defendant William Sells pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He is tentatively scheduled to testify in Mr. Grimes’ trial on Monday.

Sells and Mr. Grimes were granted new trials after the Delaware Supreme Court found a jury was improperly selected in May 2013. Sells was 31 when convicted, and Grimes was 42.

A jury of nine women and seven men heard testimony on Wednesday in the trial overseen by Judge Robert B. Young.

The Harrington police officer testified that the vehicle’s driver did not try to end the pursuit or flee from the passenger who fired five or six shots toward him during a quick stop in the pursuit.

The chase took place on country roads in misty conditions that transitioned into heavy rain at some point.

A Felton police officer testified  the gunman “was trying to kill me” after a bullet struck his driver’s side windshield and ricocheted upward.

A Harrington officer described himself as “full of energy” to apprehend the fleeing suspects but “absolutely” afraid he would not return home to his family afterward.

The Felton officer said he saw two individuals exit the alleged getaway car that crashed into a ditch, and saw one fall when a trooper fired toward them.

Some of the chase was recorded on a Felton police dashcam that activated after emergency lights were engaged and shown to the jury.

Two Delaware State Police troopers are expected to testify today at Kent County Courthouse between 9 a.m. and noon, and law enforcement’s emergency radio dispatch audio from the incident is scheduled for presentation.

The trial will recess for the afternoon due to previous scheduling commitments.

The morning began with a State of Delaware DNA analyst testifying to findings regarding evidence received from the AG’s office from Dec. 5, 2011 to March 13, 2012.

With blood samples from Mr. Grimes and Mr. Sells available, the analyst compared DNA profiles to material located on a T-shirt, glove, Cricket cell phone, two 9mm firearms (a Beretta and .38 Special), a sunroof and a passenger door handle.

No conclusions tied Mr. Grimes to any of the evidence, according to the analyst.

Under examination by DAG Ben Snyder, the analyst said that she wouldn’t expect to see DNA if gloves were worn, and that heat and rain might impact the ability to locate it.

A Viola resident then recalled from the witness stand finding a package of dye stained money while walking near her residence with two grandchildren on Aug. 28, 2011.

There was torn up money scattered on both sides of the road, she said.

A Delaware State Police trooper responded to her residence soon after a 911 call was made, and viewed the red-stained money including ripped up $10 bills, according to testimony.

The trooper also recovered more money and the framework of a dye pack at the scene, she said.

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