EXCLUSIVE: Pulaski County “Brave Samaritan” recalls night he stopped a serial robber

New River Valley News

PULASKI COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Mitch Gilmer has been praised for his heroic efforts to stop an armed robber on Oct. 12, 2020.

Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith called Gilmer a “Brave Samaritan.”

On that Monday night, David Simpkins put on a wig and mask and entered a Pulaski County gas station. Simpkins then pointed a handgun at the store clerk and demanded money from the register.

Shortly after, Gilmer — a regular customer at the store — walked in.

“It was just a little different when I walked in the store. The lady behind the counter, she was flushed. I could tell something was wrong and the guy turned away from me. I could kind of see his hand on the counter. It looked like he kind of had something in his hand and when he turned away from me she whispered to me ‘he robbed me,'” Gilmer explained.

Those words sent Gilmer running after that robber.

“There was Mom and other customers. Who knows what’s going to happen. You know and I just reacted to the situation. We went around and I chased him around the corner where I tackled him and was trying to detain him,” Gilmer recalled.

“Well, and I started getting hit in the head with a gun. Once that stopped, I realized, ‘Well Mitch, you’re going to have to do what you have to do,’ because it was either him or me then.”

It wasn’t until later that Gilmer learned the extent of Simpkins’ criminal history.

According to the Department of Corrections, Simpkins first entered DOC on June 20, 1990. He was sentenced to 218 years in prison on multiple convictions in multiple counties.

CONVICTIONS

  • Robbery
  • Felony use of a firearm
  • Unauthorized use of a vehicle
  • Conspiracy
  • Statutory burglary
  • Grand larceny
  • Kidnapping
  • Forcible sodomy
  • Uttering
  • Forgery
  • Breaking and entering
  • Escape
  • Aggravated sexual battery
  • Wearing a mask in the commission of a felony

JURISDICTIONS

  • Roanoke County Circuit
  • Pulaski Circuit
  • Wythe Circuit
  • Smyth Circuit
  • Botetourt Circuit
  • Augusta Circuit
  • Rockbridge Circuit
  • Montgomery Circuit
  • Roanoke City Circuit

However, on Sept. 10, 2019, the Virginia Parole Board issued Simpkins discretionary parole.

WFXR News filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out why he was granted early release. The request was denied.

Griffith has made clear that he feels Simpkins should have never been released.

“He had 56 felony convictions, 14 robbery convictions, there’s no justifiable reason that the Parole Board should have released him. We wouldn’t be here today if they hadn’t released him,” Griffith said.

On May 19, 2021, Simpkins received an active prison sentence of 22 years and four months for the robbery in Pulaski County.

Griffith released the below statement following the sentencing hearing on Wednesday:

“Today, Pulaski County Circuit Court sentenced David Simpkins for robbery of a local business in Pulaski. He received an active prison sentence of 22 years and 4 months.

22 years, that is justice, that is Pulaski County justice. This case is another example of what a united county we have. The terrified, yet brave store clerk called 911 for help, the Brave Samaritan answered the clerks cry for help, the Pulaski County Sheriffs Department answered the call for assistance, and the Court answered the demand for justice.

In 2019, a parole board may have thought he deserved to be free but in 2021 a Pulaski County lead justice system ensured that our brothers and sisters in the Commonwealth won’t have to worry about him for another 22 years. He is returning back where he should have been all along, prison.

Our job is law and order and maintaining justice. We may not always win, but here in this County, we will always fight. Make no mistake; today is a victory, a victory for justice.”

JUSTIN L. GRIFFITH, PULASKI COUNTY COMMONWEALTH’S ATTORNEY

In an interview with WFXR News, Griffith said, “The safety net that Mr. Gilmer’s actions have cast over the Commonwealth can’t be overstated.”

Gilmer’s quick actions not only allowed for Simpkins’ arrest but also allowed law enforcement in other counties to identify Simpkins as a suspect. He’s currently charged for robberies in Botetourt, Bedford, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Smyth, and Bland counties.

“That was all God. He chose me to be there at that time because he knew I would stop him,” Gilmer said. “There was at one point during that altercation that I thought I was going to have to let him go because I was so weak and all of a sudden I got this big huge burst of energy and that was when I noticed he was down enough to where I had him. Then the cops came around the corner.”

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