Va. Beach bank robbery case heads to grand jury

UPDATE 5-18-15:

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA. (WAVY) — A grand jury meeting in Virginia Beach Circuit Court Monday returned the following indictments for both Rory Diggs and John Lewis:

  • Attempted capital murder or a law enforcement officer
  • Three counts of robbery
  • Three counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony

 

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The two men accused of robbing a Virginia Beach bank and shooting at a state trooper faced a judge Thursday.

Rory Duke Diggs, 43, and John Anthony Lewis, 41, were in court for a preliminary hearing. After four hours of testimony and eleven witnesses, Judge Thomas Murphey decided the case against them can now move forward to a grand jury. On May 18, the grand jury will decide if the case will go to trial.

During the hearing, the prosecution amended the capital murder charges to attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer. That charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years to life in prison, according to Macie Pridgen, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Virginia Beach.

The defendants also each face three robbery charges and three firearm charges. Pridgen told 10 On Your Side the maximum punishment for all seven felonies would be four life sentences plus 13 years in prison.

The Commonwealth attorney’s office called 11 witnesses to testify about their involvement in the case. The first three were Wells Fargo tellers at the time police say Diggs and Lewis robbed the bank. They described how the men, dressed in dark clothes and masks, walked into the bank demanding money.

The fourth witness is a bank employee tasked with counting money. She said, in all, $34,391 was missing.

The Virginia state trooper injured in the shooting was fifth to testify. Sergeant James Pew said, on the morning of December 5, he was checking on a stolen car when he heard tires squealing. He said because of the strange behavior, at 9:59 a.m. he started following the black SUV with his lights and sirens on.

Sgt. Pew said the driver never stopped. The passenger got out and ran. Meanwhile, he said the driver started shooting at him, so he fired back. Sgt. Pew said two rounds hit his windshield and a bullet grazed his head. He  said he had cuts and scrapes and a cracked knee cap.

The next witness said he saw the chase and shootout from his house. He lives on Mansion Cross Lane and saw the passenger get out of the SUV and shoot at Sgt. Pew. In court, he identified John Lewis as the driver.

The seventh witness was an officer who assisted in Diggs’ arrest. Officer M. Criner has been with the department since 2008. He said, while on patrol, he heard the call about a bank robbery. He and his partner were canvassing the area and saw a man in dark clothes and a camouflage jacket carrying a backpack.

Officer Criner said he observed another officer chasing the man. Then, he testified he saw another officer stun Rory Diggs with a TASER. Diggs was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was arrested.

Three Virginia Beach police forensics officers testified about some of the evidence. They said after Diggs’ arrest, officers found a bulletproof vest, a knife, a loaded gun, a magazine, a black hat and a brown backpack with all of the money stolen from the bank inside.

A forensics supervisor testified that she took more than 100 crime scene photos and collected a dozen cartridge cases from a .357 mm handgun and 18 cartridge cases from a .223 mm gun. The trooper’s weapon was the .357 mm.

Finally, a forensics officer testified he processed the Toyota Sequoia because of search warrant. He said they seized the following items: from the glove box – credit cards, driver’s license belonging to Lewis, and a cell phone; from the center console – a wallet belonging to Diggs; inside the wallet were two credit cards and his driver’s license. Insurance information was also in the vehicle.

The defendants’ family members and defense attorneys refused to talk to 10 On Your Side about the case.

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