Money taken in bank robbery likely covered with security dye

Published 1:00 am Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two tellers at a local Trustmark bank handed over an undisclosed amount of money to a masked gunman Friday, but a dye pack concealed in the cash apparently exploded as the suspect fled, Vicksburg police Lt. Bobby Stewart said.

No arrests have been made in the robbery, which took place at the branch at 1020 Mission 66 near Grove Street just after 10 a.m.

The gunman was described as a black male about 6 feet tall with a medium build, wearing a black mask, long-sleeved, baggy black shirt or jacket and blue jeans. He fled after placing the money in a white plastic bag, Stewart said.

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“He was brandishing a handgun from the time he entered the building,” Stewart said. After taking money from the tellers, the man fled west on Grove Street. “A witness reported that he got into a small-to-mid-sized, four-door gray vehicle on Chestnut and headed east on Grove. The witness said it looked like he was running with a flare, so we believe the dye pack did go off.”

Police believe the man was alone and ran to a car he had parked there ahead of time, Stewart said.

Chestnut Street is a dead-end road just west of the bank off Grove. Police and sheriff’s deputies, including three K-9 teams, searched the area for nearly an hour.

The branch remained closed Friday, said Trustmark spokesman Melanie Morgan, but will open Monday.

Three blocks west on Grove Street, Mass was being celebrated at St. Aloysius High School while police were searching the area. The school always keeps entrances locked, but school administrators were asked by law enforcement not to let students out through the parking lot, said Dean of Students Mike Jones. A full lockdown was not ordered, he said.

Trustmark Bank provides counseling for employees involved in robberies, Morgan said. Two employees and one customer were in the bank at the time, Morgan said.

The customer said the suspect “stuck a gun in the teller’s face” and demanded money. When asked if she was scared, the woman shrugged and said, “You can’t do nothing about it.”

Family members of one employee, who waited outside the bank while investigators interviewed witnesses and reviewed tapes, said the longtime teller was shaken by the robbery but not injured. They said she was able to call them immediately after the robbery.

Stewart would not say how much cash was taken, but said if the dye pack exploded, without being washed, it was probably not spendable. If recovered, some of the bills could be cleaned and put back into circulation, he said. The pack is electronically detonated when it is taken a certain distance away from sensors.

Police had no suspects, Stewart said.

The bank robbery is the first in the city this year. Two were reported in 2009 and three were reported in 2008.

Trustmark Bank operates six branches in Vicksburg.

Vicksburg Post reporter Ben Mackin contributed to this story.