Oak Lawn bank robber caught, in an air duct
By Tony Graf Sun-Times Media June 2, 2012 4:30PM
Police work the scene of a bank robbery and standoff at the Bank of America branch in the Ranch Manor Shooping Center at 111th Street and Pulaski Avenue in Oak Lawn Saturday, June 2, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:11AM
A gunman who allegedly dropped into an Oak Lawn bank through the roof and zip-tied two employees during a broad-daylight robbery Saturday is in police custody after an exhaustive 10-hour search.
Authorities searched for the suspect in the upper reaches of an adjacent strip mall after the 2:14 p.m. robbery at the Bank of America at 4046 W. 111th St.
They finally found the man hiding in a second-floor air duct above a ceiling in the middle of the shopping center and arrested him about 12:35 a.m., Oak Lawn police spokesman Michael Kaufmann said.
He was wedged so tightly into the duct that officials had to cut him out of it, Kaufmann said. He did not resist arrest.
A gunman entered a bank through the roof at mid-afternoon, zip-tied two employees and took cash before running when a security video camera spotted him and police responded to the broad-daylight robbery, police said.
The two zip-tied employees had been freed and were not harmed, Kaufmann said. The bank had closed at 1 p.m., and there were three people in the building when the incident occurred — two employees and a cleaning person. The cleaner was in another part of the building.
On Saturday evening, authorities searched a four-square-block perimeter. Pulaski Road and 111th Street were closed along with some residential areas to the northwest.
Oak Lawn police, the FBI and SWAT teams from the South Suburban Emergency Response Team were searching for the armed suspect in the upper reaches of the strip mall where the man was believed to be hiding. The bank and strip mall are separated by a fire wall.
Teams removed ceiling tiles and were searching in difficult places. While police dogs were on standby, authorities used remote cameras, robots and commands over a public-address system to try to locate the suspect.
Fifty to 70 police were on the ground in the area. A Chicago-Cook County police helicopter flew overhead. Nearby businesses were cleared — including the bank, a restaurant, a bar and other businesses. About 25 patrons were cleared from the establishments.
By late Saturday evening, authorities had concentrated their search to a central area of the strip mall where the gunman entered and was spotted. Later Saturday, police found blood in the ductwork of the strip mall complex, and expanded their search to the air ducts, Kaufmann said.
At 2:14 p.m., an activated alarm went off: A security company video camera had spotted two people on the ground with the gunman, a black male with a bandanna and black clothes, Kaufmann said.
The gunman was zip-tying the employees’ hands behind their back, stuffing cash into a black bag, Kaufmann said.
“The (part) of the bank, where this occurred at was where the cash was kept. The defendant came in through the roof and landed on the floor in there, and he took the employees and put them on the floor and zip-tied them,” he said.
Police did not know whether the suspect put a hole in the roof or found entry some other way, Kaufmann said.
Oak Lawn police responded within a couple of minutes and set up a perimeter. The subject was seen running on the roof, Kaufmann said.
The Chicago Transit Authority reported reroutes of buses in both directions on Pulaski as a result of the police activity in the area. Police blocked off 111th Street east of Keeler Avenue, and the street was jammed with vehicles from Oak Lawn police and fire, Justice police, Sauk Village police, Orland Park police, Oak Forest police and fire and Richton Park police. The vehicles extended more than a block west of Keeler. A helicopter flew a tight circle around the blocked stretch of road.
Dozens of people looked on from the yellow police tape line on 111th, and news media outlets crowded the staging area.
John Roche, an Oak Lawn resident who lives nearby, received a message about 2:15 p.m. on his answering machine from the village of Oak Lawn reporting that there was an incident at 111th and Pulaski and asking people to stay inside.
Both Roche and his son, Patrick, 10, stood with residents at the police tape line about 6 p.m., observing the various jurisdictions at work.
“I’ve seen a bunch of cops and people coming out trying to find where the person is,” Patrick said.
Contributing: Sunt-Times Media