Police sources familiar with the investigation say Timothy Edward Carson could be connected to at least a dozen robberies in the metro area over the past two weeks.
Minneapolis police officer Timothy Edward Carson's shift on Wednesday started at 9 a.m. But he wasn't there.
By the time he told a supervisor he was running late at 9:30, the FBI says, Carson had robbed an Apple Valley bank and was well on his way to getting caught.
Carson, 28, was arrested early Thursday and appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon, charged with bank robbery. More criminal charges are expected to follow; police sources familiar with the investigation say he could be connected to at least a dozen robberies in the metro area over the past two weeks.
"The bottom line with police work is ethics and trust and respect. He blew every one of them," said Lt. John Delmonico, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, of which Carson is a member. "Good luck to him in jail."
The criminal complaint outlining the bank robbery charge against Carson shows that the trail of clues leading to his arrest began minutes before he allegedly robbed the Wells Fargo Bank on Pilot Knob Road.
At 8:37 a.m., Apple Valley police officer Kurt Schultz pulled over Carson's white Mitsubishi Galant because it lacked a front license plate. Carson identified himself as a Minneapolis police officer and was allowed to go on his way.
At 9:17 a.m., Schultz was called to the bank on the robbery report. A minute earlier, a man in a black jacket and ski mask had robbed the bank. Armed with a handgun, he had ordered the tellers to give him money, which he put in a backpack, before fleeing to a light-colored vehicle parked outside.
En route to the bank, Schultz saw Carson's car headed north near the bank at 9:22 a.m.
"That was the break in the case," said Apple Valley Police Chief Scott Johnson.
Minneapolis police say Carson arrived for work at 10 a.m.
That night, when questioned by an Apple Valley detective and an FBI agent at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Division, Carson first denied involvement, but then confessed to robbing the Wells Fargo, according to the criminal complaint.
He led investigators to a trash can outside the Special Operations Division where they found clothing worn in the robbery, including the coat, ski mask, backpack and shoes with soles matching the "Impact Zone" imprint found in the snow outside the bank. Cash and the gun used in the robbery were in Carson's locker.
In another interview at the Apple Valley Police Department Wednesday night, Carson admitted to numerous armed robberies in Dakota and Hennepin counties, authorities say.
Police in disbelief
Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said he was shocked.
"We spend a tremendous amount of our resources, our time and our energy to try to find the finest candidates for the job of police officer," he said. "That being said, we do have a few that fail."
And that, he said, tarnishes "the badge of the Minneapolis Police Department."
That feeling was echoed by Delmonico, of the Police Federation, who called Carson's alleged crimes "disgusting and a disgrace to the badge. It's unbelievable."
Carson is now on administrative leave.
There are several screening stages for any applicant to the Minneapolis Police Department. First is a written test, physical exam and oral interview. Applicants must also have a two-year law enforcement degree when they apply.
Next, applicants undergo background checks: criminal, references, past employment, residential and financial. Applicants who pass are given a conditional job offer pending the passage of physical and psychological exams. The psych exam consists of written tests and an interview with a psychologist.
If an officer shows unusual behavior on the job that is witnessed by two or more people, the officer can be tested for fitness for duty.
Carson, who lived in Apple Valley and then Rosemount, began work as a Minneapolis officer in January 2007. He worked in the First and Third Precincts for a few months, but has been a member of the SWAT unit for nearly two years. This month, he was on a team serving high-risk search warrants.
The standards to become a member of the SWAT team are higher than for most other units. Candidates must present a resume, interview with the unit's commander and pass a firearms test and physical agility test. The unit has 38 members.
Series of robberies
Apple Valley police said they have connected Carson to a series of robberies over the past month, although charges have not yet been filed in cases other than the bank robbery.
One of the Apple Valley robberies occurred Dec. 30 at the CVS Pharmacy on Dove Trail when a man armed with a handgun confronted the clerk and took an undisclosed amount of money from the cash register.
Early Tuesday, a man walked up to a woman making a deposit in the drive-up depository at the U.S. Bank branch on Garrett Avenue, brandished a handgun and demanded her money.
Forty minutes later, a man robbed the Quick Stop convenience store on W. 150th Street.
In all of the cases, the robber was described as a white male in his 20s, wearing a dark-colored jacket and ski mask and armed with a handgun.
Two recent incidents in Rosemount, one an attempted purse-snatching and one a robbery of a Marathon gas station, may also be linked to Carson, said Police Chief Gary Kalstabakken.
"The time of day, the location, the description of the suspect in each of the cases, they were all similar," he said.
Lt. Mike Fossum, head of the Minneapolis Police Department's robbery unit, said Carson is a suspect in three armed robberies Sunday and Monday in Minneapolis. Super America stores at 6000 Portland Av. S. and 4320 E. Lake St. were robbed about an hour apart early Sunday, he said.
On Monday morning, Fossum said, somebody robbed Sovereign Grounds coffee shop at E. 48th Street and Chicago Avenue. Witnesses gave the same description of the suspect: thin, white male wearing a ski mask and pointing a black gun, Fossum said.
Kris Sezer had just opened Sovereign Grounds at 7 a.m. when Carson allegedly came in and asked for coffee. She was filling in for her husband, Hakan, who was in Turkey.
When Sezer gave him the coffee, he dropped the cup and pulled out his gun, said Hakan Sezer. He came behind the counter, and she opened the register and handed him the money.
Kris Sezer described the robber as a well-dressed man with a good build. He was wearing a face mask, but that didn't seem suspicious to her because it was so cold outside.
"When my wife learned he was a cop, her jaw just dropped," he said. "It's unbelievable. I'd love to hear his story."
Staff writers Bob Von Sternberg, Abby Simons and Vince Tuss contributed to this report.