May 17th, 2007 11:48 AM
Customer praised for helping to stop bank robbery suspect
BZ to this guy.
Customer praised for helping to stop bank robbery suspect
The Associated Press
May 17, 2007
BESSEMER -- Law officers have praised a bank customer who pulled his gun and helped deputies capture a gunman who opened fire during a robbery of a Wachovia branch, killing two tellers and wounding two.
Chris Chappell, who was in the bank Monday morning getting $40 in change on the way to his job in Adger, fled the bank when gunshots rang out, drew a gun for which he has a concealed weapon permit, took cover by his sport utility vehicle and alerted deputies who came up.
The gunman, cornered by Chappell and the deputies when he tried to flee the bank with a hostage, stumbled and was shot by Deputy Alan Rhea.
"It's certainly commendable," Jefferson County Sheriff's Sgt. Randy Christian said. "It's obvious he played a key role in keeping the guy there until we could get there. It's a great testament of someone willing to take action."
"He kept him from escaping, and he gave deputies time to get to the scene," Bill Veitch, chief assistant district attorney, told The Birmingham News in its moment-by-moment account of the robbery and arrest.
Bessemer Mayor Ed May, while calling Chappell a "good Samaritan and a brave individual," added that "I would not encourage anyone to do that."
Chappell, however, said he just went by his instincts.
"I know what's right and what's wrong. There wasn't nothing I could do differently. I'm always going to do what I think is right," Chappell said.
William Merriweather Jr., 30, a 1994 Jackson-Olin High School graduate who also attended Alabama State University and Lawson State Community College, was taken into custody after being shot outside the bank. He was charged with capital murder in the deaths of the two tellers.
According to witnesses and police investigators, the gunman fatally shot Eva Lovelady Hudson, then continued firing down the line of tellers, killing Sheila Prevo. He shot two other tellers, who survived, while demanding money, and forced bank manager Myron Gooding to open the vault.
Grabbing a bag of money, he left the bank, only to find Chappell waiting.
"I was prepared to shoot," Chappell said.
According to The News' account, the gunman threw his hands up and went back inside when he saw Chappell. He eventually came out holding Gooding as a hostage. By then, deputies had arrived and Merriweather was shot and captured.
"I don't think you had time to be scared," said Chappell.
May 17th, 2007 12:18 PM
More in depth article
Bank robbery witness praised
Authorities say `good Samaritan' bought deputies time
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
ROBERT K. GORDON and RAHKIA NANCE
News staff writers
The clock inside Chris Chappell's SUV read 9:03 as he pulled into the Wachovia bank branch Monday morning on Bessemer's Ninth Avenue.
He had visited his mother at Medical West hospital, dropped in at Wal-Mart and then made a quick stop at the bank to get $40 in change to take to work in Adger in west Jefferson County.
Just after Chappell entered the bank, another man walked in.
He was wearing a sky blue shirt, striped tie, khaki pants, baseball cap, sneakers and sunglasses, police and witnesses say.
William Merriweather Jr. also was carrying a 9 mm Glock semi-automatic pistol. He took money. He took lives. But he didn't get away.
Here's what witnesses and police investigators say happened during a terrifying six minutes.
As the bank opened its doors about 9 a.m., eight employees were inside, just beginning a new work week. One of the teller windows was empty because one person was on vacation.
About a dozen customers were there first thing, ready to do their banking business - Chappell among them.
Merriweather, a 1994 Jackson-Olin High School graduate who also attended Alabama State University, came in with a mobile phone pressed to his ear. Police think he walked to the bank, using an access road from the Lawson State Community College campus, where he had once taken classes.
Chappell handed a teller a few bills, and the teller collected the coins for him. Shots rang out. Chappell glanced up and saw that the teller at the next window, Eva Lovelady Hudson, had been fatally shot.
Merriweather continued firing down the line of tellers, Chappell said, killing Sheila Prevo. Customers and employees ran for cover.
At the counter, Merriweather demanded money and keys. No one is sure whether that demand came before or after he fired his gun, or if it was during the barrage.
Merriweather then dashed behind the counter and grabbed teller LaToya Freeman by the hair and ordered her to open the vault. Another teller, Anita Gordon, tried to protect her co-worker, but Merriweather turned and shot Gordon in the face and neck. Freeman fell to the floor, leaving some of her hair in Merriweather's grip. Merriweather fired shots at Freeman, blowing off the tip of her right index finger.
Amid the rampage, Chappell and at least one other customer fled the bank.
Chappell was carrying his own gun, for which he has a concealed weapon permit. He took cover by his sport utility vehicle just outside the front doors, drew his weapon and waited.
Inside the bank, with Freeman wounded and no longer able to comply with his demands, Merriweather grabbed bank manager Myron Gooding and forced him to open the vault. Merriweather then grabbed a bag of money and exited the bank.
He found Chappell waiting.
"I was prepared to shoot him," Chappell said.
Returned with hostage:
Merriweather threw his hands up and turned to go inside after seeing Chappell. He returned to the doors a second time only to go back inside the bank. But when he returned a third time, he had taken Gooding hostage.
At the same time, sheriff's deputies Ray Sorenson and Randy Davis were passing by the bank when they spotted a woman falling. She fell, rolled, got back up and kept running.
The deputies, who serve outstanding warrants, quickly turned around to investigate. That's when they spotted Chappell standing outside, his gun drawn. Chappell screamed that an armed man inside had shot "two or three people."
"I'm very surprised that the guy he held hostage didn't get his head blowed off," Chappell said.
The deputies called for backup.
At 9:06 a.m. Bessemer police were notified that there was a disturbance at the bank.
Meanwhile, Chappell and the deputies cornered Merriweather, who faced them with a gun pressed to Gooding's head. Merriweather and Gooding stumbled.
"He knows he's fixin' to get shot," Chappell said of Merriweather. "And he's not crazy. A crazy man don't have sense enough to be scared. And he was scared."
As Merriweather stood up, he reached for his gun and was shot by Deputy Alan Rhea. Merriweather hardly acknowledged being shot, Chappell said, only letting out a grunt when he was wounded in the groin.
Bessemer police arrived at 9:09 a.m.
"I don't think you had time to be scared," said Chappell, who had never used his gun to subdue anyone. "I prayed to God that I wouldn't have to use it."
Still holding bag:
Deputies and police moved in to arrest the wounded Merriweather, who was still clutching the money bag and trying to get away. He didn't let go until he was handcuffed.
Authorities praised Chappell.
"It's certainly commendable," Sheriff's Sgt. Randy Christian said. "It's obvious he played a key role in keeping the guy there until we could get there. It's a great testament of someone willing to take action."
Bill Veitch, chief assistant district attorney, agreed.
"He kept him from escaping, and he gave deputies time to get to the scene," Veitch said.
Bessemer Mayor Ed May called Chappell a "good Samaritan and a brave individual," but added: "I would not encourage anyone to do that."
Chappell said he was only doing the right thing. "I know what's right and what's wrong. There wasn't nothing I could do differently. I'm always going to do what I think is right," Chappell said.
May 17th, 2007 12:26 PM
Isn't that the banking firm that has all their branches posted against CC to protect the public?
EOD - Initial success or total failure
May 17th, 2007 12:37 PM
In california the police would have emptied their magazines in him then beat and tazed him and spun it to where he was an accomplice
May 17th, 2007 12:43 PM
Excellant work by Mr. Chappell. He didn't try to "Rambo" the situation, he got himself out of danger and behind cover, and called the cops. It's unfortunate that the two tellers were killed, but at least the guy didn't get away.
May 17th, 2007 12:52 PM
At first I thought of a couple things I might've done differently, but I wasn't there so I am not gonna critique the good guys' actions. Just gonna say: Good Job.
May a few more antis lighten up after this.
May 17th, 2007 02:20 PM
The pessimist in me says doubtful...Wachovia especially. I suspect next week their signs will be bigger and have bold lettering.
Originally Posted by LBrombach
"My God David, We're a Civilized society."
"Sure, As long as the machines are workin' and you can call 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, and you scare the crap out of them; no more rules...You'll see how primitive they can get."
-The Mist (2007)
May 17th, 2007 02:27 PM
Positive action by a citizen with a concealed carry permit...gotta be a good thing. I, too, wonder if Wachovia and other banks might consider not being a "gun free" zone.
It looks as if the criminals of the world are out to prove a point...that is, give them a place where they can steal and kill, be fairly certain they won't have any resistance, and they'll take advantage of it. Why can't the anti-gunners see this simple truth?
noli nothis permittere te terere...
May 17th, 2007 03:41 PM
They've been telling us over and over that "most" bank robberies are conducted nonviolently, with none of the bystanders ever really being aware that a robbery was going on, because it usually involves just a note slipped to the teller demanding money and making a threat of a gun/bomb/etc.
It sure looks, lately, like that tide is turning. More violent robberies taking place in banks -- or at least, getting more publicity.
The time to stop just "going along with what they demand" is really upon us. It was never valid in the first place -- evil should always have been actively opposed by the good -- but now more than ever it's becoming clearer than it ever was, that there is no safety in hoping for mercy in reward of cooperation with an evil person.
May 18th, 2007 06:04 AM
Originally Posted by rstickle
This is the branch I use for my business account. It has never been posted. It has never had a guard. While some of the branches have weapons detectors Wachovia said this branch was not considered to be in a high risk area. At least one of the employees has a permit to carry. However, Wachovia will not allow employess to carry. I was saddened at this tradgedy. I know all the employees including the deceased. I have always carried inside this branch anytime I have conducted businees there.
There is another Wachovia branch close to this one that is not posted. It does have a weapons detector at the entrance. It does not work. I have been there several times carrying a full size 1911 and never set it off. Recently I told the branch manager that she should fire it. She just shrugged it off. Bet she gets it looked at after this.
May 19th, 2007 01:40 PM
Some of the branches have "weapons detectors"??
What kind of "weapons detectors"? Do you mean a standard security checkpoint with magnetometer, possibly x-ray? Or something more subtle and passive?
May 19th, 2007 02:21 PM
The one I went through was a modified version of a standard metal detector. You went through the entrance..it scans you and if it finds nothing then the second door opens and lets you access the bank. If it sounds an alarm then both doors lock and you can't enter or exit until either someone unlocks the door or leo arrive. I was told by the branch manager after I went through it with a full size 45 (and it didn't sound the alarm) they would have allowed me through with my weapon because they know me.
Originally Posted by peacefuljeffrey
Again, neither branch is posted. After what happened I expect there will be changes.
Last edited by Mr_D; May 19th, 2007 at 02:23 PM.
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