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Huntington Woods

February 13, 2013

Suspected bank robber pleads no contest

By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer

HUNTINGTON WOODS — The suspect in a Huntington Woods bank robbery case will be sentenced later this month on four felony charges.

John Azell Jones pleaded no contest in Oakland County Circuit Court before Judge Shalina Kumar during a Feb. 5 pretrial. Jones, 47, of Royal Oak Township, is facing charges of bank robbery, unarmed robbery, fleeing and eluding police, and resisting and obstructing police. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Kumar at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 26.

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. According to Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, Jones’ actions during the chase 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. “But those officers had no way of knowing that he was not pointing a gun at them.”

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department was later called in to investigate the shooting. According to Undersheriff Mike McCabe, the study indicated that there was no wrongdoing on the officers’ part.

“We determined that this was a clear and justified cause for discharging their weapons,” McCabe said. “Those two officers acted appropriately within the law and did what they had to do to stop this suspect and protect themselves.”

As Cooper explained, this practice is standard protocol.

“Anytime there is a shooting of a suspect (by police), we conduct an investigation to make sure that they were justified in using force to take him down,” she said.

Jones’ defense attorney, Judith S. Gracey, could not be reached for comment at press time.

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. Jones approached a teller, told her that this was a robbery and made threats that he was going to kill her, police said. He reportedly 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 as Jones left 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 to a driveway on Oxford Boulevard just off of 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.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jeremy Selweski at jSelweski@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5004.