Former Aurora police chief arrested

Published 10:39 am Monday, September 24, 2012


Former Aurora police chief Willis Cohoon Watts Jr. was arrested by the Washington Police Department Friday night on charges of embezzlement.

The charges against Watts originate from the seizure of Browing rifle during an arrest by Aurora police last year. At the time, Watts still held the position of police chief.

According to the Beaufort County Grand Jury indictment, Watts presented a petition to dispose of the firearm to Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons Jr., and the seized rifle was subsequently forfeited to the police department. Watts then took the rifle to Mackey’s Landing Firearms in Jamesville and traded it for another firearm for his own personal use, according to District Attorney Seth Edwards (Judicial District 2) in an email.

“The obstruction of justice charges involve allegations of false statements (Watts) made on the petition and order that forfeited the gun,” Edwards said.

Aurora town leadership brought concerns regarding the incident to the District Attorney’s office, said Clif Williams, Aurora’s mayor. The decision was then made to contact the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

“We don’t have any kind of internal resources that would handle it, so you have to send it to the proper authorities,” Williams said. “It’s the only thing you can do.”

In August of 2011, Aurora’s town council gave Watts the option to resign as Aurora’s police chief.

On Sept. 17, the Beaufort County Grand Jury handed down True Bills of Indictment against Watts, charging him with two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of embezzlement by a state officer, and one count of embezzlement. Watts turned himself in to the Beaufort County Magistrate’s Office Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Watts was hired as Aurora’s police chief on April 27, 2010 and headed the force until Aug. 19, 2011. Prior to his time as chief, Watts served as an officer with the Washington Police Department from May of 2008 until May of 2010. His work with the WPD is preceded by an 18-year U.S. Navy career, working in the aviation and military police fields.

According to a local law enforcement official, Watts recently received security clearance for an overseas tour from Dyncorp International, a private sector firm contracted by the U.S. government for national security and military support services and aviation maintenance.

Mike Harmon took over as acting police chief when Watts resigned from the position. The Aurora department has one fulltime police officer — the police chief — and several auxiliary officers, Williams said.

Watts was released from the Beaufort County Detention Center Monday morning on an $8,000 secured bond. No court date has been set.