A few hours after a midday robbery occurred at a Wharton bank on Thursday, Sept. 12, one of the suspects involved reportedly died when he was involved in a crash following a high-speed pursuit with another law enforcement agency in East Texas.
The other suspect is still at large, according to the Wharton Police Department.
Following an investigation, it was determined that two men, LeEdward Demon Hopkins and Tony Wayne Mitchell, were involved in an aggravated robbery of First State Bank of Louise, located at 505 East Boling Highway at 11:27 a.m.
Wharton police released still photos from video surveillance as both men were in the process of allegedly robbing the bank.
The following day, the Lufkin Police Department reported that Hopkins had been involved in a fatal accident hours after he had been in Wharton.
Lufkin police said on or about 7:10 p.m. on Sept. 11, officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop on a vehicle Hopkins was driving while on Loop 287. When he failed to stop, he led several officers on a pursuit that reached speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.
Lufkin police reported the following on its Facebook page: “Around 7 p.m., DPS received information that Hopkins was in the Lufkin area, headed north on Loop 287 in a black Dodge Challenger R/T. A Lufkin police officer located the suspect vehicle near the intersection of Old Moffett Road around 7:10 p.m. He then initiated a traffic stop, but Hopkins refused to pull over.
“Hopkins continued on to U.S. 59 north toward Nacogdoches as multiple agencies, including Pct. 1 Constable Tom Selman joined the pursuit. Selman attempted to shoot out Hopkins’ back tire but was unsuccessful.
“Hopkins broke away from law enforcement as he neared Nacogdoches city limits, reaching speeds of more than 130 mph. He lost control of the vehicle after one of his tires was spiked near Woodland Hills Golf Course.
“The vehicle veered off the road, hit a power pole and went airborne into a tree before eventually coming to a stop in a tree line near the 12th hole. The car’s engine block caught fire, but it had been thrown from the vehicle.
“Hopkins apparently died on impact and was pronounced dead at the scene by a Nacogdoches County Justice of the Peace.
Wharton PD said an undisclosed amount of money was located, along with a firearm.
Wharton police reported that Hopkins and his accomplice had robbed the bank at gunpoint and that both quickly fled with an undermined amount of cash. One of the men was wearing a traffic vest, and both had covered their faces with masks to conceal their identity.
Once law enforcement arrived, several businesses near the bank had locked their doors.
Wharton PD used its Facebook page to issue a press release about the aggravated robbery and that the men had “left on foot towards Helms Street,” which is behind the bank and within walking distance of Wharton County Community College and Wharton High School.
At that time, police said both men were presumed to be armed and dangerous.
The Wharton Independent School District released a letter through first-year WHS Principal Jerrell Barron to parents of students about a “lockout.”
It read in part: “At 11:37 a.m., Chief Landy Williams was notified of criminal activity in the vicinity of Wharton High School. At :39 a.m., a ‘lockout’ was called. There is no threat to any student, or staff member on the high school campus, however, the ‘lockout’ was put in place for the safety of all parties.
“As of 12:10 p.m., the school has been deemed safe and will return to its normal state.”
WISD said a lockout means “when there is a moderate threat to the campus. The campus functions as normal and all outside perimeters are secured.”
Wharton police later said it was believed the suspects were no longer within the city of Wharton County. No injuries were reported following the bank robbery, police said.
According to Wharton PD, as the investigation continued, investigators learned of a possible “mobile location” for Hopkins near Lufkin, and as such, that information was passed on to the Lufkin Police Department for assistance.