LPD, FBI follow leads in bank heist

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

With a $1,000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the man who robbed First Farmers Bank on Friday, the FBI and Lewisburg Police continue to follow leads in the case.

In their appeal to the public, the law enforcement agencies encouraged good citizens to call city detectives at 359-3800, CrimeStoppers at 359-4867 or the business number for city police dispatchers: 359-4044.

The bank on Ellington Parkway was robbed of an undetermined amount of money just before noon on Friday by a white man wearing a ball cap and no mask, Police Chief Chuck Forbis said. The bank robber said he had a gun, but did not show it.

The bank robber was described as wearing a camouflage jacket, blue jeans and a white tee shirt.

Officer Dac Burrow reported the chain of events at the bank.

A teller had finished with a customer and was processing that transaction when she noticed a white man standing at the front corner of her window.

The bank robber passed a note to the teller saying "You are being robbed. I have a gun. Give me $10,000. Do not pull an alarm until I'm gone."

"I don't have that much money," the teller said, and the bank robber replied, "Just give me what you have."

She gave him money from her cash drawer and attempted to give him "bait money" but the bank robber "did not take the bait money," Burrow wrote. The man then "shoved the money into his jacket ... took the robbery note back and ... exited the front doors of the bank."

The woman then told another teller that she'd been robbed, and the bank doors were locked until police arrived.

Another employee added that the suspect was "carrying a black book of some type."

The bank robber is described as standing about six feet tall, of medium build, and his age was estimated at about 35-40 years. He was wearing a light colored hat, possibly tan.

The suspect fled on foot toward the Wendy's restaurant just north of the bank on Ellington Parkway near the headquarters of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association.

Witnesses said the suspect went in Wendy's south door, stepped through the area in front of the restaurant counter and out the north door.

"Video shows the man going from one side of the Wendy's to another," Forbis said of what the restaurant's security cameras saw.

Forbis said that a female employee of the bank dialed 9-1-1 and gave a brief description of the suspect to dispatcher Glenn Liggett.

Detectives canvassed the businesses and the residences in the area, Forbis said. Lawmen and women continued to follow leads Monday.

The first lawmen on the scene were Lewisburg Police Officers Larry Hazelwood and Dac Burrow, Forbis said.

A steady stream of customers was arriving at the bank early Friday afternoon and they were being told the bank was closed for rest of day.

The First Farmers branch office's automatic teller machine was still operating, as was the night deposit facility, but other transactions had to be conducted at another branch.

"I've never had to wait to go into the bank because of a robbery," said Jeanette McMillian who wanted to get some checks cashed. "I can't believe this happened in Lewisburg. This is a peaceful little town. I don't know where else to go."

Customers were told that would be in Chapel Hill, although First Farmers has branches in Columbia.

Normally a regular customer at First Farmers, Ed Shackelford commented Friday in the parking lot: "Not today. There were police cars blocking the drive through."

"It's no problem," customer Margaret LaFlamme, "but it's a little shocking that it would happen in little Lewisburg. In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., it would be a normal occurrence on a Friday."

The front door of the branch office here was dusted for fingerprints and photographed by City Police Detective Santiago Mcklean. Also investigating on the scene was Detective James Johnson.

Before branch manager Barbara Capps stationed herself on the porch to tell customers the bank was closed for the day - and to keep anyone from touching the fingerprint powder - Police Sgt. Barry Hargrove put up the crime scene tape at handrails.

The bank branch reopened Saturday morning, according to a prepared announcement from the bank's headquarters.

FBI Special Agent Brian E. Fazenbaker of the Bureau's office in Columbia was seen consulting with Forbis and shortly thereafter Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard arrived at the scene.

Tribune news staffers Karen Hall and Clint Confehr collaborated for this story.