Police discovered that the man they found asleep last weekend in the parking lot of the Rock Hill Books-A-Million with a soda can filled with heroin is a wanted felon out of Virginia, accused of taking guns from a home and repainting a stolen car, authorities said.
Why he chose Rock Hill – more than 200 miles from his home, family and friends – as a stopping point remains a mystery, a police sergeant said on Monday.
At about 7:10 p.m. Sunday, officers were sent to the Books-A-Million at the Manchester Village Shopping Center after receiving calls about a man who had been in the store acting strangely, according to a Rock Hill Police report.
Police found the man sitting in a black Ford Taurus with revoked North Carolina license plates they learned belonged to a 1999 Cadillac Escalade.
When an officer tapped on the window, the man awoke and “began fidgeting.” He told an officer he was waiting for a friend to pick him up so they could eat at Buffalo Wild Wings, the report states. Claiming to be from West Virginia, he told the officer he did not have a driver’s license and identified himself as “Eddie Phillips,” born February 1963. Dispatchers were unable to locate an ID for that person.
Police searched the man and his car. Using a federal criminal clearinghouse, officers learned that the Taurus was stolen from Mercer County, W.Va. The man told police he did not steal the car, but that it belonged to a friend. Mercer County authorities confirmed that the car was reported stolen.
The man told police: “This looks bad, I want to talk to my lawyer,” the report states.
Police stopped questioning him, but continued searching the car, where they found a syringe filled with clear liquid in the glove compartment, and an aluminum soda can that was burnt on the bottom and filled with a dark residue. The residue tested positive for heroin, police reported.
After lifting the suspect’s fingerprints and matching it against prints on file in a federal criminal database, police identified the man as Paul David Whited, a 41-year-old felon running from the law in Richlands, Va.
Rock Hill Police charged him with possession of a stolen vehicle and as a fugitive from justice. He was being held Monday on a $70,000 bond and will be taken to the York County Detention Center.
Police in Virginia plan to extradite Whited back to Tazewell County, where he will be charged with breaking and entering, grand larceny and grand theft auto. Authorities there had been searching for Whited for more than a week after they say he broke into a home, stole four handguns, one long gun, jewelry, money and keys to a 2011 “brilliant pearl-white” Silverado, said Sgt. Jerry Gilbert with the Richlands Police Department. He went to Wal-Mart, bought a can of black paint and then used it to cover the stolen car.
“Once he stole the firearms from the residence, we did list him as possibly armed and dangerous,” Gilbert said, adding that police sent alerts on Facebook, notified other police agencies and distributed information to local news media about Whited. “He did have possession of about four or five handguns. Those handguns are still out in the public somewhere.”
Using the car security service OnStar, police found the stolen Silverado, but not Whited or the stolen guns. Investigators suspect Whited, part of a network of drug users who sell or pawn items in exchange for money to buy, “swap and trade dope,” possibly sold the guns to fuel his habit, Gilbert said.
During the most recent thefts, Whited had been out on bond for an incident last summer in which police said he broke into a car outside a local hospital, Gilbert said. He is also a “strong suspect” in pharmacy break-ins in the area.
“We’re very familiar with (Whited),” Gilbert said.
Police are unaware of any connections Whited has with Rock Hill. His family and friends all live around Richlands. “We put the heat on him all week with media pretty hard ... why he chose (to go) south, I don’t know.”
Jonathan McFadden • 803-329-4082