Cumming painter’s bank robbery motive still a mystery

Four days later, James Kenny’s relatives remain mystified.

They have no idea why the 50-year-old Cumming painter decided to rob a bank Monday. No idea why he did so in his work van, labeled “Professional Painting by James Kenny.” And no idea why he refused to drop his gun when confronted by an officer.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s Sgt. William Brent Weeks shot and killed Kenny in a Texaco parking lot Monday afternoon; his remains were cremated Thursday.

“We just don’t have the answers,” said Kenny’s sister, Michele Wilson of Roswell.

Kenny worked alone painting houses and was very good at his craft, Wilson said.

“He didn’t have to tape up walls and windows because he was very precise,” she said.

But running a business “is tough right now with the way the economy is,” Wilson said. “People are not painting their houses.

“Financially, the ups and downs of living week to week, whether you’re going to get jobs or not, I think that was a big part of it,” Wilson said. “It could be a bunch of things -- who knows?”

Kenny was twice divorced, and had one child from each marriage. He was estranged from both ex-wives, Wilson said.

Kenny went to drug rehab about 20 years ago, “but we don’t know what if anything was going on right now,” Wilson said. “We didn’t have that close of a relationship. He was kind of off doing his own thing.”

Toxicology reports could take weeks.

About 1 p.m. Monday, authorities say, Kenny walked into a Wachovia Bank in Cumming wearing sunglasses and a cloth covering his head.

“He walked in and went right to the next teller and that’s when he pulled the gun and jumped over the counter,” customer Nancy Parks told the Forsyth County News. “He told the girl he wanted the money ... he grabbed a bunch of money, jumped back over the counter and went right out.”

His van was soon spotted by Weeks, who followed it while calling for backup. Kenny pulled into the Texaco on Hwy. 9. As Weeks approached the back of the van, Kenny got out holding the gun, Sheriff Ted Paxton said.

“Sgt. Weeks yelled at him to drop his weapon,” Paxton said. “When the suspect started turning with the weapon in his hand, that’s when Sgt. Weeks fired.”

Weeks fired five times, Paxton said.

Forsyth County deputy coroner Jonathan Hill said Kenny was shot three times in the chest and once in the left hand. He could not say where Kenny was hit first.

“Why at such close range do you have to fire so many times?” Wilson asked. “If you fire the gun out of his hand, why can’t you wrestle him to the ground and just handcuff him?

“It’s an insane thing to do, don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning what he did,” Wilson added. “But why do you have to fire three more times?”

The GBI is investigating the shooting, and a spokesman would not release any information.

Paxton said the GBI took the gun and that he could not confirm what type it is. Wilson said she’s been told it was a pellet gun. In any case, Paxton said, “there’s no way Sgt. Weeks would have been able to tell.”

Security cameras trained on the parking lot show Weeks “fired until the suspect went down,” Paxton said. “He fired his weapon until the threat was over.”

Paxton added: “The gun did not come out of [Kenny’s] hand until he fell onto the ground.”

About $600 was found in the van, along with other evidence tying Kenny to the bank robbery, Paxton said.

Weeks is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Wilson said Kenny’s parents and four siblings are eagerly awaiting the GBI’s findings.

“We need to know all the procedures were followed,” said Wilson, who described Kenny as a loving brother. “We’ll keep going until we get some answers.”