Huntington WoodsMarch 6, 2013
Man sentenced to nine years in prison for bank robbery
By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer
HUNTINGTON WOODS — The man convicted of robbing a Huntington Woods bank last fall will be spending almost a decade of his life behind bars.
John Azell Jones, 48, of Royal Oak Township, was sentenced to nine years in prison by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Shalina Kumar Feb. 26. Three weeks earlier, Jones had pleaded no contest to four felony charges: bank robbery, unarmed robbery, fleeing and eluding police, and resisting and obstructing police.
Jones’ defense attorney, Judith S. Gracey, had no comment regarding the length or severity of her client’s sentence. She did stress, though, that Jones’ no contest plea “was not an admission of guilt — just a statement that he does not wish to dispute the charges against him.”
Officials from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office could not be reached for comment at press time.
After allegedly robbing the Chase Bank in Huntington Woods last September, Jones led police on a high-speed car chase that culminated in a foot pursuit in which he was shot by a pair of officers. In a prior statement, Prosecutor Jessica Cooper indicated that Jones’ actions during the chase had caused the officers to react in self-defense.
“He took a shooting stance toward them with something in his hand, but it turned out that the object was just a big black comb,” she said following the suspect’s no- contest plea. “But those officers had no way of knowing that he was not pointing a gun at them.”
However, Gracey questioned the circumstances under which Jones was shot. “My client told me that he did not have anything in his hands at the time,” she contended. “He said that he was just running away from the police.”
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department was later called in to investigate the shooting. Undersheriff Mike McCabe said that his department determined that there was no wrongdoing on the officers’ part and that they acted “appropriately within the law” by firing their weapons on the suspect.
According to Huntington Woods public safety, at around 10:20 a.m. Sept. 10, an eyewitness saw Jones put on a cap and gloves as he entered the Chase Bank at 26363 Woodward Ave. The robber approached a teller, told her that this was a robbery and made threats that he was going to kill her, police said. He then ran out of the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash, dropping money all over the vestibule in the process.
The witness followed Jones in his car as he fled the scene in a white Ford Taurus, notifying police about the suspect’s location and behavior. Using that information, officers from several local agencies were able to catch up with Jones on southbound Woodward, near Lincoln Drive.
The officers pursued Jones as he crossed I-696 into Pleasant Ridge, where he lost control of his vehicle and was boxed in by police cars. They then chased him on foot over to a driveway on Oxford Boulevard, just off Woodward, police said. There, Huntington Woods and Royal Oak officers opened fire, striking Jones with three bullets. The suspect was arrested and transported to Beaumont Hospital, where he received treatment for his wounds.
On Nov. 1, Oak Park 45-B District Court Judge David M. Gubow bound Jones’ case over to Circuit Court following a preliminary exam. There, he was arraigned by Kumar on the four felonies.
According to the Michigan Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS), Jones — who sometimes uses the alias Jamal Johnson — has an extensive criminal history dating back more than 25 years. He was most recently convicted in Macomb County in 1997 of armed robbery, disarming a police officer, and resisting and obstructing police. He also has prior convictions for breaking and entering with intent to rob in both Wayne and Oakland counties.