State troopers Thursday identified the man killed following an armed bank robbery and a police pursuit through rush hour traffic.
Stuart Harold Bryson, 54, of Charlotte, was a passenger in a black SUV being driven by 25-year-old Erin Morgan Clark, of Gastonia, when the vehicle collided with a minivan on Crowders Creek Road at the intersection of U.S. 321 before careening down an embankment. Emergency workers loaded Bryson on a stretcher to take him to the hospital, but he died a short time later.
Clark was taken to CaroMont Regional Medical Center and then transferred to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte in critical condition. According to a woman who identified herself as Clark's grandmother and only by her first name, Patricia, Clark suffered an injury to her right hip in the wreck.
"She's doing fine," said Patricia, after visiting Clark in the hospital Thursday. "She's still in pain, her hip is dislocated and they're trying to see if they can put it together without surgery. But until then it's just a matter of waiting."
Authorities say Bryson and Clark were involved in a bank robbery and chase that resulted in less than $1,400 being stolen from the PNC Bank branch on South New Hope Road on Wednesday. The two were acquaintances, according to Patricia.
Michael Watkins was in the branch with his wife cashing a check when the subject, since identified as Bryson, allegedly pointed a gun toward a teller and demanded money.
“He told us to just stand back and he asked (the clerk) for money and then he got the money,” Watkins said following the incident.
According to police reports, Bryson made off with $1,380 in different denominations prior to getting into the car with Clark. As police began pursuing the vehicle at the intersection of Garrison Boulevard and U.S. 321, some of the cash reportedly flew from the vehicle.
The SUV crashed into a minivan being driven by Ava Mauney, with her two grandchildren as passengers. Mauney planned to go to the hospital as a precaution, though nobody in the van suffered serious injuries. The suspect vehicle, meanwhile, went down an embankment.
Gaston County Police are now investigating the police pursuit while Gastonia Police continue to look into the robbery. Troopers identified Bryson on Thursday as the man who died in the wreck.
Bryson had no North Carolina convictions, though he was arrested in Gaston County in November on charges of making a threatening phone call and assaulting a female.
Clark is a felon whose prior convictions include driving while impaired, drug possession, possessing a firearm as a felon, larceny of a firearm, breaking and entering into vehicles and credit card theft. She spent nearly 18 months in a state prison in 2013 and 2014.
She has been arrested in Gaston County five separate times this year on charges that include possessing drug paraphernalia, violating her probation, larceny of a firearm, shoplifting, inhaling toxic vapors, assault and battery and trespassing.
Police have not revealed what charges Clark could face if she recovers from her injuries.
According to Patricia, Clark is currently homeless, though used to live with her. Patricia says she last saw Clark Monday at her home.
According to Patricia, Clark said Bryson asked her to drive him to the bank so he could get money to go to another store. Patricia says Clark told her Bryson came out of the bank and said 'Let's go.'
"She took off and then the next thing she knows, he was putting his foot on hers and took the wheel out of her hands and she's sitting there devastated not knowing what was going on," said Patricia. "She was going to slow down for the police officer, she was going to pull over and he told her not to."
Patricia said she had not learned of the incident until she was contacted by a reporter Thursday morning.
"I'm devastated about it. I just don't understand," said Patricia. "We're just hoping that she'll get better, that she'll feel better and we'll take it one day at a time."
Adam Lawson can be reached at 704-869-1842 or on Twitter @GazetteLawson. Eric Wildstein contributed to this report.