Man arrested, charged with bank robbery after hours-long search
-- Sun-Times, Sun-Times Media Wire June 3, 2012 6:31PM
Police tactical teams work on the roof of the Ranch Manor Shooping Center at the scene of a bank robbery and standoff at the Bank of America branch in the strip mall at 111th Street and Pulaski Avenue in Oak Lawn Saturday, June 2, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 3, 2012 6:35PM
OAK LAWN - A gunman who allegedly dropped into an Oak Lawn bank through the roof and zip-tied two employees during a broad-daylight robbery Saturday has been charged in a federal criminal complaint with bank robbery.
Charles B. Estell, 38, of Chicago, was charged in a criminal complaint filed Sunday morning in U.S. District Court in Chicago with one count of bank robbery, which is a felony offense, a release from the FBI’s Chicago office said.
The ordeal started at 2:14 p.m. Saturday, at the Bank of America at 4046 W. 111th St. when a security company video camera spotted two people on the ground with the gunman, Oak Lawn police spokesman Michael Kaufmann said.
According to the FBI’s criminal complaint, two employees in the vault after the bank closed said a man carrying a gun entered and said, “This is a robbery, get down on the floor, keep your heads down.”
The man also said, “I don’t want to kill you or hurt you, I just want the money,” according to the complaint.
The man bound the wrists of one employee with black zip ties and duct tap, while the other employee opened the vault, allowing the man to empty compartments into a black bag he carried with him, the complaint states, adding that the man continued to take money from teller drawers.
One witness said that the man appeared to be talking to another person—possibly through a cell phone—during the robbery, the complaint said.
After taking as much as $100,000, the man used duct tape to bound both employees’ feet and cover their mouths, the complaint states, adding that the man told them, “I have someone outside, I don’t want to shoot, give me 10 minutes.”
One employee said the man then exited through the ceiling by moving a ceiling tile. Once gone, one of the bound employees called 911 with their feet, the complaint said.
An FBI spokesman did not immediately return messages regarding the alleged accomplice.
A video camera caught the man zip-tying the bank employees’ hands behind their back and stuffing cash into a black bag, authorities 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,” said Oak Lawn police spokesman Michael Kaufmann.
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.
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.
“It’s a very compressed area, and when you get to the top, it’s very spread out, so they’re having a tough time climbing around with their gear on and methodically looking,” Kaufmann said earlier Saturday afternoon.
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.
During the search, authorities went from building to building on the roof, Kaufmann said. By Saturday evening, they found blood on a broken window, where the alleged robber might have entered.
“They did locate an area where some money was stashed, apparently from the bank robbery,” he said. “We also located some blood on a broken window, where it looks like the defendant may have made entry.”
Later Saturday evening, authorities were concentrating their search on a central area of the strip mall where the gunman entered and was spotted. Police found blood in the ductwork of the strip mall complex, and decided to expand their search to the ducts inside the building where he was eventually found, Kaufmann said.
The suspect was finally found him hiding in a second-floor air duct above a ceiling in the middle of the shopping center and arrested about 12:35 a.m. Sunday, Kaufmann said.
He was wedged so tightly into the duct that officers had to cut him out of it, Kaufmann said. He did not resist arrest.
Estell appeared before Magistrate Judge Sidney I. Schenkier Sunday morning, at which time he was formally charged. Estell was ordered help without bond, pending his next court appearance which is scheduled for Tuesday at 2 p.m. If convicted of the charge filed against him, Estell faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison.