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Residents: Pony Place usually quiet
Sunday’s standoff was not typical, police agree
Thursday, April 3, 2014
By DEBBIE HALL AND BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writers
Sunday’s standoff on Pony Place was out of character for what police and residents say generally is a quiet neighborhood.
“Generally, and for the most part, we don’t have many problems on that street,” Martinsville Interim Police Chief Eddie Cassady said.
On Sunday, several incidents in the city culminated at 122 Pony Place in a standoff between police and William Robert “Robbie” McKinney, 37, of Collinsville. They included the abduction of a woman and three children and the robbery of Price’s Minute Market, all attributed by police to McKinney.
“We were receiving information from all over that (McKinney) had been sighted in different areas, and we were checking those areas,” Cassady said. “It just so happened we ended up locating him there.”
Residents are proactive and work with law enforcement, he said. “We also have a Neighborhood Watch group in that area, as we do in a lot of areas in the city, and we really appreciate residents’ cooperation” not just during Sunday’s incident, but at other times as well. “I want to thank all the residents for their cooperation and assistance.”
On Monday, portions of a chain-link fence that surrounded the front yard of the brick and vinyl home at 122 Pony Place were slumped over. The front door was boarded, as were sections of a front-facing window. Tracks from a vehicle were visible in the yard.
Those were the scars of the standoff. Two armored personnel carriers (APC) drove through the fence and onto the home’s yard, where battering rams on the front of each vehicle struck the house. The Danville Police Department APC knocked down the door; the Virginia State Police APC knocked out the window in an effort to find McKinney.
Like Cassady, many of the people who live on Pony Place said the neighborhood generally is quiet.
Barry Fitzgerald, his family and extended family have lived in what he called “the family house” for years. The Fitzgeralds’ well-maintained home is near 122 Pony Place.
Fitzgerald said he was not home when the commotion started Sunday, but some of his family members were “stuck here. They couldn’t get out.”
From family and neighbors, Barry and Tonya Fitzgerald said they learned that a van stolen earlier Sunday when four people were abducted had been found near the Pony Place/Fayette Street intersection.
“The driver’s side door was still open. ... Like he just jumped out,” Barry Fitzgerald said. McKinney also reportedly told some witnesses that “he was not going back to jail,” Fitzgerald said he was told.
Cassady said authorities tried to establish verbal communication with McKinney, but McKinney did not respond.
Fitzgerald said one of his family members told him they heard a gunshot after authorities went up to the house. However, it was not clear whether the gunshot was confined to the inside of the house or directed at authorities outside, he said.
McKinney apparently died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, police said Monday.
Fitzgerald said he had “never seen him (McKinney) before in my life ... . But I bet you it was 100 cops” working at the scene.
Dorothy Broady was at her home on Pony Place on Sunday afternoon when the incident began.
She said authorities told her to “go to the back of the house and stay” until the situation was resolved. Four snipers eventually were perched on the roof of her home, she said, adding that police asked for her permission to place the armed officers there.
“I felt like we were well taken care of” by the authorities, she added. “The police did a real good job.”
Broady added that her family also has lived in the neighborhood for decades.
“It’s a good neighborhood. A wonderful neighborhood with wonderful neighbors,” she said, and noted the Fitzgeralds “are my special neighbors” because they are so willing to help. “We all try to help each other and look out for each other.”
“This has always been a quiet neighborhood,” unless an outsider creates problems such as the incident on Sunday, she said. Otherwise, “everybody gets along.”