Benson bank robbery suspect who left WakeMed located in SC

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Questions linger about how robbery suspect was able to leave hospital

Benson, N.C. — Authorities on Tuesday night located the bank robbery suspect who went missing after he was discharged from WakeMed.

Ronnie Hiram Wessinger Jr., 46, of Gaffney, S.C., was taken to the Raleigh hospital for treatment on April 2 after he was shot twice by a bank customer, police said. The man was wounded while demanding money from a teller at the PNC Bank branch located at 400 S. Wall St. in Benson.

When Benson police officers went to the hospital Tuesday they were told that Wessinger, who has been charged with attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and second-degree kidnapping, had been released from the hospital. Police said Wessigner was also charged on Tuesday with possession of a firearm by a felon.

Authorities said Wessinger was located in Greenville, SC at about 8:35 p.m. and taken into custody. He was being held at the Greenville County Detention Center, pending extradition to Johnston County, police said.

Ronnie Hiram Wessinger Jr.  photo

A WakeMed spokeswoman said Tuesday evening that privacy laws prevented the hospital from commenting on a particular patient and from notifying law enforcement about a patient’s discharge date and time unless there is a court order compelling them to do so.

“Law enforcement is permitted to serve warrants and/or arrest an individual on scene or while he or she is in the hospital. Under state law, if a patient under arrest is receiving medical care, law enforcement may be responsible for medical expenses incurred and need to remain with a patient in custody. As a result, some agencies elect not to arrest a patient who is in the hospital,” the WakeMed spokeswoman said in a statement.

Benson police said in a written statement that an officer went last week to WakeMed on the day after the foiled bank heist to interview him but Wessinger declined to speak to police without having an attorney present.

The police statement said Benson police asked when the suspect would be released from the hospital. Wake County law enforcement agencies were also told about Wessinger’s outstanding arrest warrant, according to Benson police.

According to police, Wessinger went to the PNC branch around 4:45 p.m. and demanded money from a teller. As he pulled a weapon from his waistband, another customer, who was not identified, pulled a weapon and fired two shots, striking Wessinger in the lower torso.

“Get the police rolling here right away, we got a gun outside,” a 911 caller told a dispatcher. “We got a pistol outside, on the ground.”

The suspect fled from the bank but was found less than a block away on West Woodall Street, police said.

He was transported to WakeMed for treatment and was later charged for the crime, police said.

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