Raleigh man charged with felony hit and run, debit card theft

From staff reportsOctober 10, 2012 

Willie Lee Artist

— Police have charged a 40-year-old driver who has a history of criminal charges with hitting a pedestrian on Wake Forest Road, then fleeing the scene.

Willie Lee Artist of 2808 Smoke Place in Raleigh was charged Tuesday morning with one felony count of hit and run, according to police spokesman Jim Sughrue. Officers found him at the Greyhound bus station in Raleigh and believed he was planning to leave the city, Sughrue said.

Police charged him at the same time with financial card theft, a felony, and misdemeanor financial card fraud, saying in an arrest warrant that he took an Employment Security Commission unemployment MasterCard debit card that belonged to his wife, Carlene Artist, and used it to get $900 without permission.

The accident in which Artist was charged occurred Monday, shortly after 7:30 p.m. on Wake Forest Road near St. Albans Drive.

Witnesses told police that the victim, Sherman Jerome Bryant, 24, of Raleigh, was crossing Wake Forest Road near Albans Drive around 7:30 p.m. Monday when he was struck by a minivan.

Bryant was not in a marked crosswalk at the time of the collision, Sughrue said, but when the damaged minivan was located, Artist, whose occupation is listed as a construction flagman, was identified as having been driving it at the time of the accident.

In an arrest warrant, police charged that Artist “knew and should have known” that he had been involved in an accident and that someone was hurt.

Artist is being held in the Wake County jail, his bail set at $20,000 for the hit-and-run charge and $20,000 for the other charges.

Artist has a history of arrests that include larceny in Wake and Pasquotank counties in North Carolina and in Virginia, according to court records.

He also was sentenced to five years probation for a federal bank robbery conviction after the FBI arrested him in 2003.

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