Wrightsville Beach police charge Wilmington men after late night bridge jump prompts helicopter search

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Two Wilmington men were arrested early Saturday morning after jumping off of the Causeway Drive bridge and prompting Wrightsville Beach officials to conduct a helicopter search for the missing swimmers.

Wrightsville Beach police charged Jordan Matthew Phillips, 26, and Gentry Lee Johnson, 25, both of Wilmington, with resisting arrest and jumping from a bridge after the two were spotted running in their underwear near North Channel Drive sometime after 3 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26.  Police had responded to a call at about 2:30 a.m. for two missing swimmers after they didn’t return to shore following a jump from the bridge into Banks Channel.

The caller told police she had had also jumped off of the bridge with the two men, but they had not returned to the shore. Kelly McDevitt was also issued a citation for jumping off the bridge, but not arrested. The caller told police that she walked about eight blocks in the area of Live Oak Drive looking for the men before calling 911.

The time lapse between when the missing swimmers entered the water and when they were reported missing sparked a quick response from local authorities, who brought in the Wilmington Police Department SABLE helicopter and a Coast Guard search boat.

“Given the current and the wind conditions, it upped our response,” Wrightsville Beach Police Capt. J. Bishop said.

However, it wasn’t the search vessels that found the missing swimmers, who were instead first spotted by a citizen while running in the area of North Channel Drive near the First Baptist Church.  Police responded to the area after the call and spotted the two suspects, who cut across 2nd Avenue to Coral Drive, before being apprehended and taken to the New Hanover County Jail. Both were charged with resisting arrest for running from officers, Wrightsville Beach police said, and Johnson was charged with first-degree trespassing after running through the yard of a private residence while trying to elude police.

Both men were released from jail on Saturday after each posted a $10,000 bond. Bishop described the bond as “unusually high,” which he said probably reflected the resources that went into the 45-minute search for the men.

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3 Comments

  1. I think everyone should step back and chill — they’ve been roasting these young men on social media. The underlying accusation of NC law regarding Water Safety § 75A-18.
    “(a) Except as otherwise provided, a person who violates a provision of this Article [humping from bridge] is responsible for an infraction…” An infraction, sometimes called a petty offense, is the violation of an administrative regulation or a state safety rule — such a mere “infraction” is not considered a “criminal offense.” HENCE, NO CRIME WAS EVEN ALLEGED TO HAVE OCCURRED HERE as an underlying act — only a water safety rule violation — punishable by a spot fine only (if witness testimony exists to prove such act even occurred). The running from police is NOT illegal — only a suspicious act, and thus the resisting arrest charges is total BS as no arrest was possible — the trespass charge is pure BS as the landowner would need to testify as a “victim” and the 1st degree requires breaking into an enclosed space like a fenced area or garage. Don’t make this into a mini-Duke Lacrosse case — no one should be fired or even disiplined — let the justice system take its course. Wether a helicopter was called and hysterical 911 calls were made — that’s a separate issue.

    • I agree! This has been blown way out of proportion. Although not teenagers, these young men were going for a nightly swim that’s not allowed. It’s an infraction-not a crime!!! That’s why we don’t go to jail for speeding-because it’s an infraction! Good points, Mr. Nathan Fuller! 👍🏽

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