Multiple videos released in claim of excessive force

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Supplied image courtesy of the Town of Wrightsville Beach 

Video released by the Town of Wrightsville Beach and the Wrightsville Beach Police Department shows what occurred between WBPD officers J. Rich and J. McCubbins and detainee Adam Mills in the WBPD booking room on Nov. 8, 2011.

The Town of Wrightsville Beach and the Wrightsville Beach Police Department have released multiple videos from the evening of Nov. 8, 2011, which more clearly reveal the details of Adam Mills’ arrest for suspicion of driving while impaired.

On July 1, 2013, Mills filed a civil rights violation lawsuit against WBPD officers J. Rich and J. McCubbins, alleging that the two officers used unnecessary force while detaining him. Mills alleges he suffered a broken nose and fractured left eye socket as a result of the two officers’ actions. 

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s Offender Public Information database lists Mills as having two prior convictions in 2006 and 2009. Both were in New Hanover County for DWI, drunk and disorderly, as well as resisting an officer. 

The first video from the 2011 arrest is from the dash camera of officer Rich’s police cruiser. Rich begins to pursue Mills west on Wrightsville Avenue near the intersection with Eastwood Road. To catch Mills’ pickup truck, he reaches speeds as high as 103 mph. Then, parked in front of the office building now home to Sage Island at the intersection of Wrightsville Avenue and Military Cutoff Road, Rich and officer T. Green appear to conduct a field sobriety test on Mills before placing him in handcuffs and transporting him back to the WBPD. Film shot while inside the patrol car show Mills barely able to hold his head up. His speech is slurred and incoherent.

In the police department booking room, additional video shows Rich processing Mills, whose words have become hostile and profane. Throughout the entire process Mills verbally accosts Rich. 

Around 1:46 a.m., Rich repeatedly asks Mills to get up from the bench on which he is seated but Mills refuses and Rich grabs him by the arms to lift him up. Rich puts Mills’ right arm behind his back and the two stagger off camera toward a door leading to the back staircase of the police department. 

From an exterior camera aimed at the entry door, Mills appears to open the door, twice as his foot is partially visible outside the opened door. On the interior camera Mills is heard audibly saying something about getting outside while Rich turns on his personal radio. 

Whether he saw Mills attempting to escape through the partially open door or heard the scuffle over the open radio channel, officer McCubbins can be seen exiting a police cruiser near the same back door, running rapidly up the stairs and into the booking room where Rich now has Mills about to sit back down on the bench. McCubbins is seen on the interior camera swiftly entering the room, moving to punch Mills as Rich tries to get him to sit down. The two officers work at holding onto Mills as they pin him on the floor. 

Mills is first subdued on the floor by both officers then lies down on his own. Rich is seen moving away to get gloves and paper towels to clean blood from Mills while McCubbins kneels over Mills. 

Mills then sits up on the floor and continues to do so until an EMS crew tends to his wounds and wraps his head in gauze. 

For the remainder of the videos, Mills is placed in a confined holding cell where he repeatedly bangs against the door and continues to yell at the officers. At 4:13 a.m. Rich and another officer lead Mills into the elevator to then transport him to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. 

A press release from the town of Wrightsville Beach that accompanied the release of the videos states investigations by the town and the North Carolina Department of Justice resulted in the determination that officers Rich and McCubbins used reasonable force in subduing Mills, were not in violation of police department policies and that no criminal charges against the two officers were warranted. 

The response from the NCDOJ came in an email to New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David from North Carolina Special Deputy Attorney General G. Patrick Murphy on Feb. 17, 2012. 

“On November 18, 2011, you requested that the North Carolina Department of Justice assume responsibility to review the referenced matter,” Murphy stated. “Upon my review of the actions of all parties to this incident and the provisions of N.C.G.S. S15A-401 which authorize a law-enforcement officer to use reasonable force upon another person when and to the extent that the law enforcement officer reasonably believes it necessary in an arrest, it is my decision that criminal charges against Officer McCubbins are not warranted. Accordingly, this office will not pursue any further action against Officer McCubbins.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 3, town of Wrightsville Beach attorney John Wessell said the town has not yet filed a response to Mills’ lawsuit. 


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