March 26, 2013 10:17:54 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
The Michigan teenager accused of shooting a United States Postal worker last week received a $500,000 bond Monday afternoon.
Arthur Lee "Slim" Whitfield, 17, of Kalamazoo, Mich., appeared before Justice Court Judge Peggy Phillips Monday afternoon for arraignment on charges of aggravated assault and armed robbery.
Whitfield was arrested last Friday afternoon after authorities believe he shot postal worker Douglas Edward Aldridge during a robbery.
Whitfield allegedly approached Aldridge around 12:30 p.m. Thursday as Aldridge was delivering mail at the Providence Place subdivision, located off Applewood Drive near Yorkville Road in New Hope.
Authorities claim Whitfield, wearing a gray hoodie and a bandanna over his face, pulled a gun on Aldridge and shot him on the left side. When the mailman fell to the ground and lay on his back, Whitfield took Aldridge's wallet out of his back pocket before he fled the scene, investigators say.
Aldridge dragged himself back to his truck and called 911. He was transported to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle. Scanner traffic revealed Aldridge was shot at least once under his left arm pit.
Law enforcement officials with both the city and county arrived on the scene of the shooting and originally detained three suspects for questioning. The three were later released, but were later brought in to the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department for questioning before being released again. Later Thursday evening, the United States Postal Service offered a $20,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of Aldridge's shooter.
Whitfield was arrested less than 24 hours later at a residence at 677 Yorkville Road, L4. The apartment is located less than one mile from the scene of the shooting. He is believed to be the cousin of one of the three suspects who were questioned Thursday.
Appearing in an orange jumpsuit and blue slippers, Whitfield wore leg chains, a belly chain and handcuffs. Tattoos were visible on his right hand and the left side of his neck was emblazoned with "blessed."
Standing 5-foot-9 with a slender build, the baby-faced teenager smiled as he was escorted into the courthouse and appeared unperturbed as he lounged in a chair waiting for Judge Phillips. He acknowledged Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge with a nod of the head, saying "sup?"
When Phillips asked if he understood the charges against him, Whitfield initially replied, "They didn't tell me."
Phillips explained the aggravated assault charge and the armed robbery charge and, noting Whitfield was not a resident of Mississippi, set the teen's bond at $500,000.
Whitfield's sister and uncle were in the courtroom for support.
Thomas Gunter is engaged to Whitfield's aunt and described him as a "good boy."
"He's been down here a couple months and has been a pretty good kid as far as I know," Gunter said.
The suspect's sister, Raven Whitfield, said her brother has been staying in Columbus with a cousin. She described him as a good person and said her family was shocked to learn he was charged with a violent crime.
"He's never been in any trouble like this before. He's not a bad person the way everyone tried to make it seem," she said.
"People are trying to make him seem like this thug but that's not him."
Raven Whitfield said she was not sure if her brother would be bailed out of jail soon, adding that would be a decision left up to her mother in Michigan.
Arthur Whitfield's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19 in Lowndes County Circuit Court. He will be charged as an adult.
Aldridge was released from ICU Monday afternoon.
"He's in a regular room now and doing good," his wife, Jane, said this morning.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.