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Bank robbery ends in chase
Oct 01, 2004 12:00 am
A Smith County bank robbery suspect who claims to be a local resident crashed just miles short of the Wilson County line after a chase which left an officer injured and the getaway vehicle scarred by gunfire.
The suspect – whose identity was not released pending formal charges – claimed to be a Wilson County resident, Smith County Sheriff Johnny Bane said.
"He said he wished we'd just shot and killed him," the sheriff quoted suspect as saying moments after he emerged from his crashed vehicle brandishing a handgun.
The harrowing incident began at the Dixon Springs branch of Citizens' Bank when a gunman burst in and tied up two female employees in a back room, Bane said.
An alarm alerted Carthage Police Department officers, one of whom noticed a vehicle "which wasn't displaying a license plate" as he sped to the scene, Bane said.
He said a Smith County Sheriff's Department detective then "fell in behind" the vehicle on Cordell Hull Bridge and attempted to stop its driver "when the man just took off."
The suspect headed east on Highway 70 toward Lebanon and then veered onto Plunkett's Creek Road as Detective Shane Gregory "attempted a maneuver" with his cruiser to end the chase which Bain said failed.
"We're taught to use the front fender on the back fender of a car to stop it, but this time it just didn't work," the sheriff said.
He said as the vehicle – an SUV – roared toward the Grant community a second investigator, Detective William Trusty, blocked an intersection only to have the suspect "try to ram him."
At that point, the officer fired three rounds into the vehicle though the suspect was not struck, Bane said.
"The officer didn't hit the suspect but about a half mile down the road he wrecked," the sheriff said.
He said the suspect emerged from the vehicle with a fully loaded .45-caliber pistol "ready to fire," but quickly surrendered to officers who had converged on the area.
"He had a round in the chamber ready to fire, but he ended up offering no resistance," Bane remarked.
Bane said the suspect claimed to be a resident of West Wilson County, but authorities had not yet verified his address as of late Thursday.
He described the suspect – who remains in the Smith County Jail as the investigation continues – as "a normal, clean cut type of man."
"He got out with his weapon in his hand," Bane remarked. "It was an unusual, odd sort of thing for him to say, about wishing we had just gone ahead and shot him, but we still don't really know what his intentions were just yet."
He described the crash which ended the chase as serious, with the suspect's vehicle "cutting down a cedar tree a good six or eight inches thick."
"He just hit it dead center," Bane said. "You could tell he hit it hard."
He said the officer who fired on the vehicle acted within his department's deadly force policy and will not face disciplinary action.
"I hate it anytime we have to use any kind of force. Nobody hates to see it worse than me," Bane remarked. "But our officer acted within our guidelines. We have to do what's necessary to protect the public from things like this."
Detective Shane Gregory sustained a minor head injury when his cruiser collided with the suspect's vehicle, Bane explained, who said he did not expect the officer to require hospitalization.
The incident came just weeks after Smith County deputies fatally shot a man in an incident on Highway 70 which was also ruled justified and shortly after Bane said county commissioners rejected a request for funding to provide bullet proof vests for all officers.
"When we send our troops off to war, we don't send them without any protection," Bane remarked. "It's a violent world today, and these officers deserve all the protection we can give them."
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.