Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cedarburg's Commerce State Bank Robbed

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A man in his 50s or 60s, waving a gun and wearing a fake beard, entered the Commerce State Bank on Monday and forced three employees and one bank customer into a back room before making off with an undetermined amount of cash.

The man left behind a parcel that resembled a bomb and escaped in an employee's car, abandoning it just blocks away in the parking lot of an apartment complex, where he switched to another car, police believe. He remained at large Monday evening.

The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department bomb squad was called in to examine the package, which Cedarburg Police Chief Tom Frank said included road flares wrapped in black tape and contained bomb components such as electrical wiring, nails and electronics, but no explosives.

The man is described as white and about 5-foot-6. He was wearing a false beard and sunglasses, a blue suit with no tie and a dark baseball cap with a U.S. Navy symbol, Frank said.

One clue left by the robber was a metal Amaretto-brand liqueur canister that contained the fake bomb. It was marked with a white sticker on which was written 25 cents, as though it had been purchased at a rummage sale, Frank said.

There are a number things that make the story of this bank robbery so strange.

First, bank robberies are very rare in Cedarburg.

Second, the robber had such an odd disguise.

Third, the fake bomb was an additional weird twist. Leaving that device probably helped to divert the attention of law enforcement officials. That may have helped in the robber's getaway.

Fourth, the distinctive tin the robber used for the fake bomb appears to have been purchased at a rummage sale, a detail that could be of help in identifying the robber. Maybe the robber didn't purchase the tin. Maybe he was trying to sell it. Still, someone might recognize the item.

Fifth, and probably the strangest part of all, a customer in the bank at the time of the robbery, Fred Westphal, believes he knows the crook.

Westphal said:

He went over the edge. He's been out of work for two months. He can't even get a job as a janitor. Just the other day, he told me, he said, 'I'm desperate.' That's the first thing he said when he came into the bank, holding up the fake gun, was -- 'I'm desperate.'

In an interview with FOX 6 News, Westphal says the gun was fake. That's not what the police are saying.

Apparently, Westphal knows where this guy lives. It's within walking distance of the bank.

If Westphal is right, I don't know why the suspect would stage a robbery in a small place like Cedarburg. He'd run a higher risk of being recognized there.

I guess when you're desperate you don't think too clearly.



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