WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - No comment. That is what Deputy Chief Donny Williams said when WECT asked about a series of downtown assaults the Wilmington Police Department is investigating.
A press release was sent out Monday only after WECT started asking questions about the alleged attacks.
The release stated the attacks may have started several months ago. All of the assaults happened to men, and some say they were robbed.
But WPD has yet to be forthcoming in answering questions that fall under the North Carolina Public Information Act.
WECT has reached out three times in the past 24 hours requesting public information on the assaults, citing NCGS 132-1.4 (c) which states in part:
"Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, and unless otherwise prohibited by law, the following information shall be public records within the meaning of G.S. 132-1.
The time, date, location, and nature of a violation or apparent violation of the law reported to a public law enforcement agency.:
Under the North Carolina Public Information Act, the time, date, location, and nature of the violation are public record, but Williams refused to answer any of these questions.
“That is still an ongoing investigation and that is all I can say at this point,” Williams said.
When asked if the assaults were of a sexual nature and citing the state statute, Williams replied, “again, that’s an ongoing investigation at this point I’m not going to comment on it.”
According to state law, the police department would need a court order to deny the release of the information. A police spokesperson indicated they will comply with our request, but did not say when.
Many downtown bar owners found the news shocking and disturbing, saying they had no idea it was taking place.
WPD’s press release stated these assaults have potentially been happening for months, which calls in to question public safety.
WECT’s Alex Guarino asked Williams if the public was safe downtown, and if they should have been made aware of this earlier.
“I think we can have confidence saying that downtown is safe as it’s always been,” Williams said. “I don’t have any overlooking public safety concerns at this time.”
While downtown bar owners found the news concerning, so did Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.
“We are concerned and we are going to take a look to see what we can do to stop this,” Saffo said.
He urged the community to be aware of what has been happening downtown and to remain vigilant when out at night.
“Obviously the more people know about what’s going on they can take the proper precautions but more importantly, it’s our responsibility to work with them to make certain this doesn’t happen," he said.