GPD investigator is a Crimestoppers Officer of the Year

Published 2:04 pm Thursday, April 19, 2018

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The Greenville Police Department’s Lieutenant Joe Disney solved numerous crimes in 2017, many of them too “small” to anyone, but the victims and the officers to make headlines or win awards.

But the case of ‘serial robber’ Kelvin Golden, which Disney had a significant part in solving, contains drama ready-made for a network crime show.

Golden robbed the Trustmark Bank in Georgiana in March, 2017, brandishing a pistol and escaping with at least $10,000 in cash.

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Later, on April 4, Golden robbed the Hilltop Food Mart in Greenville, getting away with $900.

Disney, as head of the GPD investigative division, took the lead on the Hilltop burglary.

He was eager to downplay his singular part in the case, giving much credit to teamwork and communication between different agencies, and gave insight into how such a wide-ranging investigation can be pieced together in the information age.

“[After] the robbery here, I had good video and a good picture of the car [Golden] was driving. The first thing we do, we put stuff on the news to see if anybody knows who they are,” Disney said, “but we didn’t realize at the time that he was wearing makeup. We found out that he’d wear makeup to cover up his [face and neck] tattoos during the robberies.”

Disney contacted a few colleagues in Evergreen, who recognized Golden and began attempting to place a name with the face.

The communication soon paid off when investigators from Evergreen called back, having remembered arresting Golden for a previous bomb threat, and advised that Golden had only recently gotten the tattoos that he disguised during robberies.

Disney then got onto Facebook, and began sweeping mugshots “from all different jails, Jefferson County, Conecuh County, Shelby County, a lot of places up north he had been arrested, and the facial features were perfect.” As the pieces of the state-wide puzzle began falling into place, Golden continued his robbery spree in Trussville and Oxford, Ala.

Disney said officers from both of those towns shared their information on the encrypted-messaging app Telegram, which is used by law enforcement across Alabama.

Disney said “I knew right then, it’s [Golden]” when he saw pictures from Trussville.

Disney sent Oxford’s police chief all his information and pictures, and verified it was the same suspect.

“I definitely did not do it all, but it ended up working out from a little store robbery here in Greenville, we were able to identify the guy that did all the banks, and it turned out it was like 5 to 7 banks,” Disney explained.

A federal warrant was issued for Golden after the Georgiana Trustmark robbery, meaning the FBI devoted resources to the case.

The FBI ended up replacing their picture line-up of Golden with Disney’s, pulling mainly from the mugshot gallery he had assembled.

Golden was, according to Disney, nearly caught in Birmingham but managed to slip away.

U.S. Marshals eventually caught up to him in Pensacola and, working off Disney’s original warrants, took him into custody.

The federal case against Golden stuck, and he received 20 years for robbery and brandishing a firearm after confessing to the Georgiana and Greenville robberies.

GPD chief Justin Lovvorn, who nominated Disney for officer of the year, said, “I think the award is well-deserved… there’s a lot of officers throughout Alabama who have done a similar good job. He did well on this case, but not just this case; throughout the whole year. There were other cases he put more work into, but just were not as high profile.”

“The award’s great, I appreciate it, but I definitely would not accept all the credit; I got a lot of help from a lot of people. I’m lucky I have friends in other police departments, we make a lot of cases because of that, “Disney said.