Did Bank Hostage-Taker Teen Commit Suicide by Cop?

PHOTO An armed man took four people hostage inside a North Carolina bank on Thursday after a robbery attempt brought police to the scene within minutes, authorities said.PlayABC News
WATCH Wachovia Bank Standoff

A North Carolina teen who was killed by police when he came out of a bank where he had held seven people hostage was holding something to the head of one of those hostages, but it was not a gun, officials said today.

The revelation added to the mystery about what was going through the 19-year-old Cary, N.C., man's mind when he went to the bank Thursday, setting off a three-hour standoff with police.

Devon Mitchell had told hostages inside the bank and a police hostage negotiator that he had a gun during the standoff at a Wachovia branch in the town, Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore said at a news conference today.

But Mitchell had also told a teller to call 911 when he went into the bank, and he apparently did not demand any money.

Police shot Mitchell when he came out of the bank holding something concealed in a red hat to the head of a hostage, Bazemore said.

"We were left with no other choice than to do exactly what we did," she said.

The police chief said today she did not know what the young man was actually holding when a police sniper shot and killed him.

"Despite what the original 911 call reported, despite what he said to the hostages, despite what he told our hostage negotiator, despite what we all thought we saw when he came out of the bank with something pointing at one of the hostages heads, we now know there was not a gun," Bazemore said.

In a 911 call made as the standoff began, a bank teller told a 911 operator that Mitchell was holding a gun hidden in a hat to the head of a coworker and he told her to call police.

The police chief said their investigation indicated that Mitchell wanted police to kill him, so-called "suicide by cop."

"Why Devon set all this in motion, why he wanted us all to believe that he had a weapon and was prepared to kill with it are questions we will never have the answers to," she said. "But it's clear that that's what Devon wanted."

Witnesses to the bank standoff and people who knew Mitchell told ABC station WTVD-TV in Raleigh, N.C., that Mitchell seemed to be troubled.

People who knew Mitchell and spoke with ABC11 right after the shooting also said he hadn't been himself lately.

"I noticed he was like kind of out of it, I guess you could say," one man said. "Like over the last couple of days, I've talked to him, he didn't seem like himself."

Mitchell's 15-year-old sister waited for news during the standoff from a pharmacy across the street from the bank, and WTVD-TV reported that a witness who was in the store with the girl said she also told others that he hadn't been himself in recent days.

"She said, 'My brother hasn't been acting right,'" Amanada Evans told the station. "She said something was different about her brother and she didn't know why."