Raleigh, NC – The convicted felon accused of dragging Newport News Police Officer Katie Thyne to her death while fleeing a traffic stop would likely have been in jail pending armed robbery charges at the time of her murder if federal prosecutors hadn’t declined to take the case.
The holdup occurred at 10:13 a.m. on May 18, 2016, when a masked gunman barged into the Select Bank & Trust and forced employees to hand over $10,361 in cash, the Daily Press reported.
He then took off in a black 2004 Mercedes Benz, which investigators later traced back to Vernon Green.
Green was already on probation at the time due to having been convicted on gun and cocaine charges in 2003, the Daily Press reported.
About four hours after the robbery, he called Newport News police and claimed that someone had stolen his vehicle from a local parking lot.
The car was recovered at an automotive shop in New Kent County eight days later, the Daily Press reported.
Nearly two years after the bank robbery, Elizabeth City police and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents apprehended Green outside the Newport News Probation and Parole office in connection with the heist.
He was subsequently extradited to North Carolina, where he was released on a $250,000 bond on the state charge.
The case languished in state court throughout 2019 while attorneys hashed out a potential plea agreement, the Daily Press reported.
By early September, federal prosecutors were considering filing charges against him. They backed out of that idea later the same month for unknown reasons.
Had they opted to prosecute him, he likely would have been sitting in jail until his federal trial, and he would never have crossed paths with Officer Thyne.
“Their decision to decline prosecution in this case was very disappointing,” District Attorney Andrew Womble told the Daily Press.
Womble would not disclose what reasons federal prosecutors gave him for turning down the case.
Don Connelly, the U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson in Raleigh, also refused to discuss the case, according to the Daily Press.
“We follow the principles of federal prosecution in determining whether to accept or decline every matter presented to our office for prosecution and did so in this matter,” Connelly told the paper.
Green, 38, has been charged with felony homicide, felony eluding of police and misdemeanor marijuana possession in connection with Officer Thyne’s murder and is being held without bond, the Daily Press reported.
Bondsman Ron Owens, who put up the $250,000 bond that freed Green jail on the North Carolina bank robbery charge, said that he was “totally surprised” when he learned his client had been arrested for killing the mother-of-two.
“He doesn’t fit the type of thug guy you’d expect to see with these kinds of charges against him,” Owens told the Daily Press. “I can’t understand what was going through his mind.”
The bondsman said that he believes Green’s claim that he had nothing to do with the 2016 robbery, and that he probably made “the bad decision” to flee from Officer Thyne because he was afraid of being caught in violation of his conditions of release in that case.
“If I thought it was him, I wouldn’t have posted the bond [for the robbery charge],” Owens told the Daily Press.
He said that Green’s parents are “in pieces” over his new charges, and that Green has been placed on suicide watch.
“They know his character,” Owens said of Green’s family.
Green has been accused of killing Officer Thyne during an altercation that occurred in the 1400-block of 16th Street at approximately 6:47 p.m. on Jan. 23, WAVY reported.
Officer Thyne, 24, and a second Newport News police officer responded to the area due to a report of drug activity, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said in a press conference on Friday morning.
After removing a passenger from the suspect vehicle, the officers turned their attention to the driver, who was later identified as Green, WAVY reported.
Officer Thyne was standing inside the open driver’s side door when Green suddenly stomped on the accelerator.
The officer was unable to back away from the car in time, and was dragged for approximately one block before the vehicle slammed into a tree, pinning her.
“She was in between that door and that tree,” Chief Drew explained.
Green attempted to flee the scene on foot, but was apprehended after a brief chase.
Officer Thyne was rushed to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.
Chief Drew said that there is bodycam footage of the fatal incident, and described it as being “very clear,” WAVY reported.
The female passenger in the suspect vehicle was also arrested on a drug charge.
Chief Drew had to pause to regain his composure as Officer Thyne’s photo was projected onto the large screen beside him during the emotional press conference.
“If you ever saw her, all she did was smile. You almost started to laugh because she was always smiling,” Chief Drew told reporters.
Officer Thyne, a New Hampshire native who was both a U.S. Navy veteran and reservist, joined the NNPD in 2018.
She was assigned to the South Precinct’s evening shift, Chief Drew said.
He recalled having spoken with Officer Thyne when she first joined the force.
“This is what she wanted to do,” the chief recalled. “She wanted to be in law enforcement, and she wanted to do it in this city.”
Officer Thyne was also very active in community events, and was an assistant basketball coach at the local Boys and Girls Club.
“She is, and will always be, a valued member of the department,” Chief Drew said. “Katie was a true hero.”
Officer Thyne leaves behind her partner and her two-year-old daughter, as well as her mother, stepfather, and brother.
She will be laid to rest on Saturday, according to the Daily Press.