By WECT Staff | May 19, 2021 at 4:41 PM EDT – Updated May 20 at 6:21 AM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A 911 call captured the frantic moments after a 17-year-old Brunswick County girl was hit and killed on a busy Wilmington roadway; shortly after the collision, the accused driver allegedly robbed the caller.
The Wilmington Police Department said the teenager was fatally hit on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway near Kerr Avenue around 2:10 a.m. Sunday. The WPD would later release surveillance images of a male suspect and the vehicle investigators believe struck the teenager: a silver 2012 Chrysler minivan.
Joseph Leopold Small Jr., 59, and Rebecker Wilson, 69, both of Wilmington, were arrested late Monday night at their North Kerr Avenue apartment.
Small was charged with hit and run resulting in serious injury/death, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and second-degree kidnapping. Wilson, who police say was a passenger in the van as well as the owner, was also charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and second-degree kidnapping.
Initially, Wilmington police said the fatal hit-and-run and the armed robbery were separate incidents, but a police spokesperson confirmed Wednesday evening that the two were connected.
A 911 call, which was released by New Hanover County Dispatch on Wednesday, began with a male caller telling a dispatcher, “This is the most insane thing I’ve ever been involved with.”
The caller can be heard arguing with a second man in the background, saying, “What do you mean? I’m going to pay you. What do you mean ‘gotta go’?”
The second man said, “Are you not going to pay me?” The caller laughs, saying, “I’m riding in a car, I’m riding in a cab,” as the second man said, “I have other people (unintelligible). I have to go.”
The dispatcher kept asking the caller what was happening.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going on. I’m in a car. He hit — this guy hit something — he hit something,” the caller said as the man repeatedly asked the caller to pay for the ride.
“What kind of car are you in?” the dispatcher asked. The caller tries to answer.
“It’s a silver — uh…” the caller said, but stopped abruptly. “…he is threatening me right now. I am running away from the person.”
The second man can be heard continuing his demand that the caller pay for the ride.
“What are you talking about? You just ran over something. There are sirens coming. This is crazy, this is insane. I’m trying to get the police here. Do you hear this person?” the caller said.
The caller then said the man decided to leave, and acts bewildered as he drives away.
“He’s leaving. He’s gone now. He’s driving away. Now I’m just standing here,” the caller said as he laughs to himself. “This is insane.”
The dispatcher repeatedly asks which direction the man was heading in and if any weapons were involved in the incident. The caller, still in disbelief, ignores the questions and, instead, apologizes for not getting the vehicle’s license plate number.
Less than a minute later, the caller told the dispatcher that the man had returned and was continuing to ask that he pay for the ride.
“I’m not sure what he is going to do,” the caller said. “Now wait a second, man. Wait a second. Hey, look, I’m on the phone with 911. Chill, man.”
This second encounter appears to escalate.
“Now hold on a second. No — something happened. You ran over somebody,” the caller said.
The sounds of a struggle can be heard on the phone as the two men yell at each other. The second man, who can now be heard more clearly, kept saying, “Pay me now,” while the 911 caller said, “I will pay you,” but later. He repeatedly said, “I don’t have it.”
“Well you better get some,” the second man can be heard saying.
After more sounds of struggling, the phone call ends.
Police officials say Small would operate the van as a “vehicle for hire and pick up fares from downtown Wilmington prior to and during bar closings.” However, police say the van was not a registered taxi.
Arrest warrants obtained by WECT on Wednesday allege that Small and Wilson used a handgun to rob the caller of an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 7.
Small was booked into the New Hanover County Jail under a $500,000 bond, while Wilson received an $80,000 bond.
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