March 27, 2010
Ex-cop accused of bank heists
Gladwin man arraigned in connection with East Lansing robberies
TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Memories of a 1996 bank robbery, high-speed chase and arrest of a Livonia police officer flooded back to Warren Lt. Michael Torey when he learned the former officer had been arrested again in East Lansing and was arraigned Friday.
"It was weird because he was a police officer when he was robbing banks," Torey said Friday about the 1996 saga of former Livonia cop Ronald Nelson, arrested Thursday as a suspect in a series of robberies in the East Lansing area. "It wasn't like he was fired or anything. He was still on the job. It was a weird feeling."
Nelson, who lives in Gladwin, ultimately was convicted of three robberies of what was the Standard Federal Bank on Schoenherr just south of 13 Mile Road.
Nelson served 12 years in prison, but was released within the past year, Torey said.
East Lansing police Capt. Tom Johnstone said area banks have been robbed five times since November. So when tellers at the Bank of America at 1390 W. Lake Lansing Road in East Lansing realized the man walking in at 9:30 a.m. matched photos of the suspect they had behind their counters, they immediately notified police with their panic buttons, Johnson said.
A radio broadcast alerted police jurisdictions in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.
St. John's police Lt. Michael Carey, who has been investigating the case since the first robbery in his city in November, immediately headed for Route 127 driving north out of East Lansing and parked along the side of the road.
Minutes later, the suspect's getaway car drove by. Following the car at posted speeds for more than 20 miles, calling for help from the Michigan State Police and other departments, Carey helped stop and arrest the suspect, Johnstone said.
"It was quite the scene," Johnstone said. "The officers initiated a felony stop with multiple vehicles, and he surrendered without incident."
Investigators for all the East Lansing-area communities that experienced bank robberies in the past few months are expected to meet within the next few days to file additional charges against the suspect, Johnstone said.