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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

New criminal charges for WPD officer with questionable record

Booking photo for Wilmington Police Department Officer Darryl G. Warren, July 30, 2023.
New Hanover County Sheriff's Office
Booking photo for Wilmington Police Department Officer Darryl G. Warren, July 30, 2023.

Wilmington Police Officer Darryl Warren was arrested last week for driving drunk and striking a woman. He’s now facing additional charges. WHQR’s Kelly Kenoyer and Ben Schachtman have more.

On Monday morning, prosecutors asked a judge for a $1-million bond for Wilmington Police Department officer Darryl Warren, saying they believed he intended to kill the woman he struck with his vehicle last week. Judge R. Russel Davis, who previously heard a protective order case brought by Warren's ex-wife, rejected that request, issuing a $100,000 bond instead. The Wilmington Police Department declined to say whether Warren was still employed.

Kelly Kenoyer: Ok, Ben, so these new charges are related to the incident we reported on last week, correct?

Related: 911 calls describe off-duty Wilmington cop 'running over' woman, SBI investigating

Ben: That’s right. Last week, Officer Darryl Warren was arrested near the Costco in Wilmington after he struck a woman with his pickup truck. Because he’s a cop, highway patrol handled things. They told us Warren knew the woman, we’ve since confirmed it was his girlfriend — and that she had been a passenger and was struck by Warren after she got out of his vehicle. We also know that he blew a .10 BAC — and I’ve heard that was about two hours after the incident, so he was definitely quite intoxicated.

Kelly: And we learned a little more from the 911 calls — and some other sources.

Ben: Yes, witnesses who called for help described a pretty brutal scene. Warren allegedly struck a tree and another vehicle trying to hit her. One caller specifically described Warren flooring the accelerator trying to run her down.

Kelly: But at the time he was only charged with reckless driving and DWI — now he’s charged with assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a female?

Ben: That’s right. It’s not uncommon to see additional charges added after an initial arrest. In this case, the SBI is handling the case — and they’ve got more investigative capacity than Highway Patrol, which usually sticks to driving-related crimes.

Kelly: Ok, you’ve also been looking into some other allegations against Officer Warren.

Ben: Yeah, whenever we have a situation like this where a trusted public employee is accused of something, we want to see if there’s a pattern, so we look at criminal and civil histories. On the criminal side, Warren was charged with several misdemeanors and felonies when he was in his late teens, early twenties, about 15-20 years ago, and those include breaking and entering, making threatening phone calls, and possession of a stolen firearm.

Kelly: And this didn’t prevent him from being employed as a police officer?

Ben: Well, all but one of the charges were dismissed — that was a breaking and entering charge from when he was a teenager [Warren was charged with a felony, but pleaded to a lesser misdemeanor charge] — and he went on to serve in the Army, so that probably helped mitigate things when he was hired at Wrightsville Beach PD, where he worked for about five years. And there is some discretion in hiring — for example, I’ve heard from a few sources that Warren approached the Sheriff’s office for a job but they weren’t interested, but WPD hired him in 2020.

Kelly: There were also issues on the civil side, right?

Ben: That’s correct — two years ago Warren’s wife filed for a divorce, and a year after that she applied for a restraining order. According to the court filing, Warren showed up, banging on her door, and making threats. I’ve listened to the 911 call — it’s fairly disturbing. The judge, however, didn’t grant the order — apparently, it didn’t rise to the level of a physical threat. As I understand it, there was an internal affairs case opened, but according to Warren’s personnel records from the city, he wasn’t put on leave.

Kelly: And it was a similar story after an incident in March, you told me. Several people called 911 after Warren was involved in an altercation at his kid’s football game.

Ben: Yeah. Responding officers determined Warren was actually trying to break up a fight — but one of the witnesses claimed Warren drew a gun and was acting belligerent. It’s a bit of a he-said, he-said situation. I’ve heard deputies encouraged that witness to file a complaint, and apparently IA looked into it, but Warren stayed on active duty.

The truth is, Warren’s track record puts him in a grey area. With the exception of that one misdeamer, he hasn’t been convicted of anything, and, as frustrating as this is for victim’s advocates, sometimes law enforcement downplays issues stemming from divorces – precisely because there are so many back-and-forth allegations made. As for the incident at the football game, it was kind of murky.

Kelly: Have you seen cases where a law enforcement agency took more of a proactive approach with an employee like this?

Ben: Absolutely. Again, there’s a lot of discretion — and almost all of the decision-making happens behind the walls of North Carolina’s notoriously opaque personnel laws. But, I’ve seen similar situations where an officer was reassigned, put on desk duty for a while, or urged to get counseling. With Warren, it’s looks like the opposite — he hasn’t been at WPD long, but he made it to the department’s investigative unit pretty quickly. After last week’s incident, he’s on paid leave – and at this point, it’s hard to imagine he’ll keep his job. But we’ll see!

Kelly: Ok, Ben, thanks for following this, and thanks for your reporting.

Ben: Happy to do it.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.