Cedar Bluff bank robbery suspects nabbed
Times Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 2:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 9:47 p.m.
Money was flying out of the window of a red car when Cherokee County Sheriff’s Deputy Tony Pettit saw it speeding on Alabama Highway 35 Tuesday morning.
“That was the first clue that this could be our bank robbers,” Cherokee County Sheriff Jeff Shaver said. This was minutes after four men armed with guns went in Union State Bank on Alabama Highway 68 in Cedar Bluff and took an undisclosed amount of money.
Six men, all from the Gadsden area, are in custody and expected to be transferred to Birmingham within 72 hours to face bank robbery and other charges.
An alert about the bank robbery was issued, and several residents were able to give accurate details about the car the men were believed to be in, Shaver said.
The men had switched cars within a half-mile of the bank, dumping a gold Chevrolet Malibu that had been reported stolen.
Shaver said deputies and other law enforcement officers already were setting up a perimeter in the area.
Pettit and deputy Keith Morgan were in Pettit’s patrol car and stationed on Alabama
Highway 35 near the intersection of Alabama Highway 273 in the Blanche community. They spotted a red Nissan Maxima on Alabama Highway 35 and saw money coming from inside the car. Pettit began a pursuit and had lost sight of the car when the deputies drove upon it after it wrecked a few miles away in DeKalb County, near New Canaan Church in the Adamsburg area between Fort Payne and Little River Canyon National Preserve.
The men already had bailed from the car, and officers quickly set up a perimeter in the area.
Deputies from Cherokee, Etowah and DeKalb counties, Fort Payne police officers and FBI agents responded.
DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office tracking dog and handler Jimmie Jones were called to respond and DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy Gerald “Red” Taylor went to the airport and got in the air in his own plane, DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris said.
A dog tracking team from St. Clair Correctional Facility was called, along with the state trooper helicopter.
Harris said the sheriff’s office tracking dog led officers to one of the men hiding in the cab of an apparent abandoned semi-truck.
Two others were soon found in the same area — about a half mile from where they bailed — and all three were taken to the Cherokee County jail Tuesday afternoon for questioning.
Harris said numerous officers searched for the fourth man, but someone on Dean Road — unaware the man was wanted for the bank robbery - gave him a ride to a nearby store.
The man was able to hide behind the store and call some friends from Gadsden to come pick him up.
Harris said the man and his friend spotted deputies in the area and were spooked. The man jumped out of the car on Alabama Highway 35, ran through the woods, crossed Beason Gap Road and was hiding in a garbage can when the tracking dogs found him.
“They went right up the garbage can and just stopped,” Harris said.
He and the two men still in the car were taken into custody and also transported to Cherokee County jail about 5 p.m.
“We’re just glad we caught them,” Harris said.
Rob Savage, commander of the Etowah County Drug Enforcement Unit, initially responded because of the request through the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force.
Savage said he is familiar with some of the men and had dealings with them in the past.
Savage said another person was taken into custody in East Gadsden and detained at the Etowah County DEU headquarters as part of the investigation, but later was released.
He said the bulk of the money and some weapons also have been recovered.
Shaver praised the efforts of all of the involved law enforcement agencies which include Cherokee and DeKalb county sheriff’s offices, Cedar Bluff, Leesburg, Centre, Gadsden and Fort Payne police departments; Cherokee County District Attorney’s office, U.S. Park Service,Police, District Attorney’s Office, US Park Service, FBI, Alabama Marine Police, Alabama State Troopers, Etowah County DEU and Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia.