The arrest of a reputed gang member from High Point for Alamance County’s first murder of 2021 has proven to be more than just the usual post-holiday reality check for sheriff Terry Johnson.
In a news conference on Tuesday, Johnson gave voice to his anger and dismay over this case, in which Isaac Jermaine Weathersby IV and two other suspects are accused of hatching a plan that ended in the shooting death of William Gene Williams III.
According to the sheriff’s office, Weathersby shot Williams, a 25-year-old white male, in the small hours on Monday after he and his accomplices arranged to meet the victim in his home on the outskirts of Burlington with the intention of robbing him of some firearms that he had up for sale. The three suspects, who are all residents of High Point, then led police on a high-speed chase through two counties that finally ended with the trio’s capture in Greensboro.
See earlier breaking news on the murder and arrests:
Much of Johnson’s aggravation on Tuesday stemmed from the fact that Weathersby and his accomplices had allegedly pulled off this murderous scheme in spite of their considerable rap sheets and their established connections to a notorious street gang in High Point. The sheriff also used Tuesday’s news conference as an opportunity to address his broader concerns about crimes that out-of-county perpetrators commit in Alamance County.
“As I look into the cases occurring here, many of the perpetrators are found to be from surrounding counties where they have extensive criminal records. They shouldn’t be walking our streets in my opinion.”
– sheriff terry johnson
“These individuals are leaving our citizens dead and their families mourning the loss of their family members,” he lamented during that afternoon. “As I look into the cases occurring here, many of the perpetrators are found to be from surrounding counties where they have extensive criminal records. They shouldn’t be walking our streets in my opinion.”
Johnson went on to blame failures within the criminal justice system itself for the continued menace these seasoned criminals apparently pose to area residents.
“I think what happens a lot of times, looking at what other counties are doing, these individuals will get break after break after break, and I have not seen that done in Alamance County. When you have someone who keeps getting breaks, they get braver, and they escalate the crimes they commit.”
– sheriff terry johnson
“I think what happens a lot of times, looking at what other counties are doing, these individuals will get break after break after break, and I have not seen that done in Alamance County,” the sheriff opined. “When you have someone who keeps getting breaks, they get braver, and they escalate the crimes they commit.”
The murder of William Gene Williams may seem like a case in point of what the sheriff said can occur when the justice system fails to adequately nip a budding menace to society.
According to the sheriff’s department, Weathersby was an accomplished felon before he crossed into Alamance County for his fateful encounter with Williams. The agency’s contention is borne out by the paper trail that the 19-year-old has left with the N.C. Department of Correction.
According to the department’s records, the 19-year-old has racked up three sets of felony convictions since 2017, when he turned 16 and attained adult status under the state’s previous threshold for adulthood. In December of that year, Weathersby received his first grownup conviction in Guilford County for an act of felony larceny which he committed that summer. In August of the following year, a judge in Davidson County handed him another felony conviction for an act of breaking and entering in April. According to the department of correction, Weathersby didn’t initially have to do any hard time for these two felonies, having received a suspended sentence for one of the crimes and probation after the other conviction.
It wasn’t until October of 2019 that Weathersby saw the inside of a prison cell after a Davidson County judge convicted him of motor vehicle theft, speeding to elude arrest, and assault on a government official for a wild ride that reportedly occurred in March of the same year. Weathersby went on to serve 8 months behind bars before his release on July 30, 2020.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Johnson said that Weathersby’s predilections were well known to High Point’s police department, which had designated him as a “validated” member of 9-Trey Bloods, who have created much mischief in their vertex of the Triad. Johnson added that High Point’s police officers had used a standard set of criteria to confirm the alleged affiliation of the 19-year-old black male, who hails from 723 Habersham Road in High Point.
Johnson added that High Point’s police department has also kept a close eye on Weathersby’s alleged accomplices. He said that the agency’s roster of “validated” 9-Treys also includes Carlos Demetrius Robert Rogers, a 19-year-old black male from 808 Putnam Street in High Point, who allegedly served as the getaway driver after Williams’ murder.
The sheriff added that High Point’s police force was also familiar with the third suspect in this case – a 17-year-old black male whose identity hasn’t been released due to his juvenile status under state law. According to Johnson, the teenager hadn’t met the criteria for gang validation before the foray into Alamance County.
In either case, Johnson insisted that police in High Point had eyes on the three suspects when they crossed over the Guilford-Alamance border late Sunday night.
“They were watching these individuals at the time, and they just slipped out of there,” he acknowledged during the news conference.
According to the sheriff’s department, the threesome made this excursion after they came across a post on a social media network about some firearms that Williams had for sale at his home on the outskirts of Burlington. The three suspects ultimately arranged to drop by the 25-year-old white male’s residence at 2233 Durham Street Extension to inspect the firearms, which included a 9-mm Glock handgun worth some $600 according to the sheriff’s department.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Johnson said that the gun’s would-be seller allowed to Weathersby handle the Glock in anticipation of unloading the gun.
“The shooter took the 9-mm pistol,” the sheriff recalled, “turned around and shot Mr. Williams multiple times and then shot at other victims in the house.”
The sheriff ultimately yielded the podium to Alamance County’s D.A. Sean Boone, who shared some concerns of his own about the limitations of the criminal justice system.
“It is probable that [shooting suspect Isaac Jermaine Weathersby IV] is a habitual felon. and if he is a habitual felon, and the evidence allows us to prove that, we will prosecute him as a habitual felon.”
– District attorney sean boone
Boone pointed out that the courts have become thoroughly bogged down due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a considerable backlog in felony prosecutions. Boone said that the problem is especially evident with first-degree murders, which are fraught with difficulties even under the best circumstances.
The district attorney added that, with the arrest of Weathersby on Monday, his office currently has 31 pending cases of first degree murder – 11 of which date from 2020. Boone nevertheless said that he has no intention to cut corners with Weathersby’s prosecution in order to chip away at this backlog.
The D.A. added that, in perusing Weathersby’s record with the department of correction, he noticed that the alleged killer has accumulated three sets of felony convictions in two different counties. Under state law, a suspect with three, separate felony convictions can, under the right circumstances, be prosecuted as a “habitual felon,” a designation that can considerably lengthen the suspect’s prison sentence if they’re convicted again.
“It is probable that he is a habitual felon,” Boone added during the news conference, “and if he is a habitual felon, and the evidence allows us to prove that, we will prosecute him as a habitual felon.”
In either case, both Boone and Johnson acknowledged that they may need some help from the community in order to bring the full force of the law down on career criminals who enter Alamance County from other parts of the state. To this end, Boone encouraged area residents to use the Crimestoppers hotline to inform law enforcement about troublemakers from outside the county who are wreaking havoc in their own neighborhoods.
“You have a right to live and work in peace,” the D.A. added. “Every person, whether they believe it or not, possesses valuable knowledge about their neighborhood and is in a position to make it safer.”
Boone’s advice got no objections from Johnson during the news conference.
“We need all the help we can get,” he conceded. “A lot of the crimes that are committed in our county are [committed by people] coming in from outside Alamance County. We hope they stop coming. But while they do, we will do everything we can to pursue these individuals.”
Residents who want to leave anonymous tips about crime in their neighborhoods can call the local Crimestoppers hotline at 336-229-7100.
See these earlier stories on Alamance County sheriff’s office:
Sheriff’s rate of traffic stops for blacks lower than state average, local police depts. (Dec. 17, 2020):
How seriously should law enforcement take comments overheard on an open mic before Dec. 2 press conference; sheriff’s office believes seriously (Dec. 3, 2020):