Originally created 11/24/03

Bank robbery suspect sought



An armed man robbed SouthTrust Bank on Tobacco Road this morning while it was full of customers.

The man waved a handgun, ordered everyone down onto the floor and demanded that a teller fill his plastic bag with money. The robber took the money, ran out and sped away in a gold or tan minivan, Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry said.

Bank officials immediately locked the doors and called police. No one was hurt.

Customer George Smith was waiting to cash a check with another teller when he saw the man come in.

"He started yelling, 'Get down! Get down!' Then he told the teller that she was too slow," Mr. Smith said. "She looked pretty nervous and shook up."

Customer LeClare Bookman told police she saw the man rush out of the bank and get into the minivan, which had been backed into a parking space near the front entrance. She said no one else was visible in the vehicle.

Authorities say there were about 10 customers and several employees in the bank when the robber entered at about 10:45 a.m.

Customer Phyllis Holland-Badke said she was sitting in a chair and got onto her knees during the robbery.

"I'd never had anybody pull a gun on me," she said. "I'm thankful he didn't hurt anybody."

At least eight sheriff's officers went to the bank to help with the investigation, and the bank was closed during the afternoon.

The robber was described as white, about 6 feet 2 inches and 200 pounds, wearing dark clothing, surgical gloves, sunglasses and a knit skullcap.

Maj. Autry said police were comparing notes to see whether the robber matched the description of two other men who robbed banks recently.

The sheriff's office is seeking information on the Oct. 28 robbery of the SouthTrust Bank at 3535 Wheeler Road and the Oct. 14 robbery at Bank of America at 2853 Washington Road.

At the Wheeler Road SouthTrust, a man with a weapon demanded money, got it and fled. He was described as white, clean-shaven, about 19 or 20 years old, of medium build, weighing 150 pounds and between 5 feet 11 inches and 6 feet tall.

In the Oct. 14 robbery, an unarmed man demanded money from a teller at the Bank of America. He took the money and ran. A dye pack in with the money exploded and was later recovered. That robber was described as white, in his 20s, and wearing a gray sweat shirt.

In those cases, police are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrests. Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's office at (706) 821-1080.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.