ASHEVILLE — Not long after midnight on a cold January morning, police officer Evan Flanders found himself facing the wrong end of a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver.
Flanders thought 24-year-old Twari Rashad Mapp looked suspicious when he walked up to him, and Mapp started to go for a gun, according to police.
But in reality the circumstances leading up to that Jan. 6 confrontation started months earlier with the discovery of sweeping problems in the Police Department evidence room.
Mapp might otherwise have been in jail — along with at least three other violent crime suspects freed on unsecured bonds because of lost evidence, according to a search of criminal and detention center records by the Citizen-Times.
One of four had been recently extradited from Oklahoma for a 2001 break-in, assault and rape of an Asheville woman who was still living in the city.
Before he was freed, Mapp had been jailed on charges including robbery with a dangerous weapon and was unable to post a $25,000 secured bond.
Police Sgt. Ernie Welborn called the releases unfortunate.
“We regret that the property room issues played a role in the bond reductions,” Welborn said.
Others, though, including residents living near the site of Flanders’ struggle, said the incidents were disturbing.
All four violent crime suspects were eventually jailed again, but not before two committed offenses again, according to police charges.
The releases of the men had to happen because those accused of crimes have a right to see any evidence against them, Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore said.
Moore has refused to release the findings of a full evidence room audit, saying the state Bureau of Investigation is using the city-funded report as part its investigation.
Evidence frozen, lesser pleas
Moore was alerted to problems on April 1, 2011, when an assistant district attorney and an attorney defending a man on drug trafficking charges discovered 397 prescription oxycodone pills were missing from the evidence room.
Days later, a police audit of 1,097 “high-risk” items found 27 guns, 54 containers of drugs and 34 packets of money missing.
Longtime evidence room manager, William Lee Smith, resigned two months earlier.
Moore, working with the SBI, sealed the evidence room, and state agents began working it as a crime scene. The city, meanwhile, hired a special auditor to go through the whole room.
That meant only the auditor and SBI agents would have access.
Because Moore could not immediately produce evidence against people facing charges, he was forced to allow some charged with violent crimes to leave jail on unsecured bonds.
• Andrew Grady Davis, 37, extradited to Asheville on DNA evidence for a 2001 rape and placed in jail on a $1 million bond before it was reduced to unsecured.
• Mapp, in jail on charges including robbery with a dangerous weapon and placed on a $25,000 bond before it was reduced.
• Corey Jawil Mapp, 21, brother of Twari, in jail on charges including robbery with a dangerous weapon and placed on a $24,100 bond before it was reduced. Prior charges against him include robbery and drug dealing.
• Daniel Wayne Jenkins, 19, in jail on charges of robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault by pointing a gun. His bond was $31,000 before being reduced to unsecured.
In other cases, those charged with nonviolent crimes were allowed to plead to lesser crimes.
Moore, who could not be reached Thursday or Friday, has said he didn’t know the full tally but that they involved more than a dozen cases, many of them drug-related.
Charged with offenses while out
It was while they were out that the Mapp brothers again ran afoul of the law, according to police.
Corey Mapp was cited for driving while license revoked and careless and reckless driving.
His brother, meanwhile, got into deeper trouble. It’s not clear why Twari Mapp had a loaded gun, according to police, and was out near the neighborhood south of downtown early on Jan. 6.
Police reports say Flanders recognized him as someone who had been charged with violent crimes before, including robbery with a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon, and suspected he might have a warrant out for his arrest.
He approached Mapp near the corner of South French Broad and Hilliard avenues. A release from the police department gave an account of the encounter:
“As Officer Flanders interacted with the individual, he asked repeatedly for the suspect to remove his hands from his pockets. After the suspect refused to comply, Officer Flanders grabbed both of the suspect’s wrists and immediately ascertained that the suspect was then trying to pull a handgun from his pocket. Officer Flanders noted that the suspect had his hand around the handle of the gun in his pocket, and the barrel of the gun was extended forward in the direction of Officer Flanders as he attempted to break the suspect’s grip.”
At that point, Flanders feared “for his life,” the release said, and moved to draw his own pistol. He was able to do it, and Mapp, seeing the gun slackened his grip, allowing Flanders to take his pistol.
Mapp was charged with assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer, carrying a concealed weapon and resisting arrest. He remains in jail under a $5,500 bond.
His attorney Gene Ellison would not comment on the charges.
Ranking police officers acknowledge problems in the evidence room led to Mapp and the other men having reduced bonds.
But it’s possible, too, they could have gotten out anyway, Welborn said.
“We cannot know if these subjects would have made bond without the reductions,” the sergeant said.
Welborn denied a request to speak directly to Flanders.
Residents near where Flanders and Mapp struggled say the neighborhood is usually safe and internal police problems put dangerous people near their homes.
Theo Crouse-Mann lives with his girlfriend, Spring Pearson, near the corner where the fight happened and said that he has seen minor crime such as prostitution, but never anything violent.
“I’ve never heard a gunshot,” Crouse-Mann said. “But now, this thing with the evidence room seems like a systemic failure.”
Back in police control
Police have regained control of the evidence room, and new Chief William Anderson said he will make a national search for a new evidence room manager a priority.
The problems happened under former Police Chief Bill Hogan, who abruptly retired after they became public.
Davis is back in jail under a $400,000 bond for charges including the rape. His attorney, public defender LeAnn Melton, did not return a call or email seeking comment.
Corey Mapp is under a $105,000 bond for his original charges, plus others, including possession of a stolen vehicle and stolen goods.
Jenkins was sentenced to six to eight months in a state prison. He was released Sept. 11, according to Department of Correction records.
Moore has withheld results of the city-funded audit despite requests for its release made by the Citizen-Times and numerous other media organizations under the state’s public records law.
N.C. Press Association attorneys say the report should be available to anyone, but the district attorney said it is exempt from state public records law because it is part of the SBI investigation.
The city paid a private contractor $174,723 for the audit, but no city officials have requested to see it, saying they would wait for the SBI probe to play out.
SBI spokeswoman Noelle Talley said the investigation is ongoing but said she could not say when it wound be done.
“It is our policy not to comment on ongoing investigations so as not to jeopardize those investigations,” Talley said.