July 8, 2006
An attempted bank robbery quickly turned into a bomb threat Saturday as a suspect demanded workers at the SunTrust Bank fill a bag with money and then remain inside and on standby for his next set of directions, all while at the mercy of an apparent bomb.
After visiting the bank earlier this morning, the suspect--described as a very tall and thin African-American male--called the bank and alerted workers that he had left multiple bags inside the building. He directed them to fill one of the bags with an unspecified amount of money and place it outside. One of the other bags, he claimed, was filled with explosives.
"He also said that no one who was in the bank was to leave, and there were customers and employees both in the bank at the time, he made threats about what would happen if anybody would leave the bank," Lee Catlin, Albemarle County Spokesperson, said.
Because of the investigation, police are not releasing how many people, male or female, were held inside the bank. After being held for close to two hours, officers from the city and county police departments were able to remove people without any injuries.
"They're fine, we made sure there's no one that had any medical concerns, that was our first priority. Nobody had any medical concerns an they are now going through a de-briefing process," Cpl. Wilkins of Albemarle County Police said.
For added security, police worked with the Applebee's restaurant next door to temporarily close their doors and evacuate the parking lot.
"I had an officer come in and tell me it was serious, they asked if we would be able to evacuate the building. They told us not to scare the employees but that we need to evacuate if we could. They could no longer guarantee our safety," Applebee's Assistant General Manager, Felicia Gutshall said.
While it is known that the suspect visited the bank earlier this morning, it's unclear what types of transactions, if any, were made. That is being investigated by Albemarle County Police. They are also looking at the surveillance video.
Witnesses say the suspect walked out of the bank this morning and apparently left the area on foot. He was last seen in the shopping center on Pantops Mountain, never seen getting into a car. He was described as a very tall, at least 6-foot, and thin, African-American male, very dark complexion. He was wearing a navy hat and shirt, and pants.
Police have said that they were able to neutralize a suspicious device. They cannot confirm that it was in fact a bomb, it will have to be taken to a lab and analyzed. However, there was never any detonation and no explosion occurred.