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Man faked robbery that led to lockdown, police say

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

December 13, 2013

A Mount Airy man has been charged with fabricating a strong-arm robbery last week which led to a lockdown at B.H. Tharrington Primary School.

Howard Leonard Summers Jr., 49, of 106 South Ridge Place, had told police that an unidentified white male robbed him in the parking lot of Chase and Charli’s Restaurant at 1384 S. Main St. on the afternoon of Dec. 6.

Summers reported that the suspect stole $1,800 in cash from him along with 82 dosage units of prescription medication.


Acting on false information that the “robber” had fled into a wooded area behind the restaurant in the direction of the school, police immediately put the Tharrington campus on lockdown as a safety precaution.


During the investigation, however, it was discovered that Summers had fabricated and staged the robbery incident and he admitted that no criminal act occurred.


The Surry County Sheriff’s Office subsequently arrested Summers at his residence in the Holly Springs community and he was charged with filing a false police report.


Summers is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on Jan. 29.


Meanwhile, Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said Friday afternoon that there are plans to have Summers provide compensation for the time and other resources allocated for an emergency situation that didn’t exist. That amounted to about $500, Watson said.


“It is our intention to ask for restitution in that amount once we take it before the judicial system,” Watson said of the case against Summers.


While he admitted to making up the robbery story, Summers has provided no explanation about why he chose to do so, the police chief said. “As far as his motivation, he hasn’t really gotten into that.”


Watson added that the emergency response to the faked crime took up officers’ time for the search, as well as disrupted the educational process for Tharrington students, teachers and parents — “when there was no need.”


In such cases, “you’re looking for offenders who were not even there,” the police chief said of the interruption posed. “It’s a total disregard for the way the community operates.”


However, officers don’t have the luxury of not responding and must react with the idea that an actual emergency is involved, Watson said, especially in light of violent incidents that have occurred at schools around the country.


“You don’t have that option to ignore it — you have to treat it as a genuine concern and act accordingly.”


Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or tjoyce@civitasmedia.