His life of crime lasted three hours and 20 minutes.
A few hours after a TCF Bank branch was robbed, a 36-year-old St. Cloud man called police to say that he did something bad and that he had a lot of money.
“We figured, what the heck,” St. Cloud police Sgt. Lori Ellering said. This was probably the bank robber, she said.
Within minutes, Ellering and her partner were at Fehd El Mehdi Kourima’s apartment. “His first words to us were, ‘The money is in my back pocket.’ ” All of it, he told police, who found $580 in cash.
“I’ve been a police officer for 18 years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like that,” Ellering said.
Just hours earlier, Ellering had responded to a robbery call at the TCF Bank inside the Cash Wise East grocery store. It was about 12:30 p.m. Sunday, and surveillance video showed the soon-to-be robber patiently waiting in line before handing the teller a note.
“Put in as many $100 bills as you can into the envelope in 15 seconds and no one gets hurt,” said the note, which was begun in pencil and finished in blue ink.
The robber didn’t say a word. He didn’t show a weapon. There was no mask or disguise, Ellering said. “He just had his cap pulled down low,” she said.
Within 15 seconds, the robber got into a black vehicle and drove away.
Most bank robberies aren’t solved “for a very long time,” Ellering said. But a repentant robber who turns himself in can speed things up. Police got the call from Kourima about 3:50 p.m.
Arriving at Kourima’s apartment, Ellering said she recognized him as the man in the bank surveillance video. He told the officers he knew why they were there. “He seemed a little nervous. He was afraid,” Ellering said. Although he didn’t speak about the robbery, he gave the officers permission to search his apartment, where they found a TCF Bank envelope that was similar to the one the teller handed the robber.
Ellering dug through the garbage and found the torn-to-pieces note demanding the money. “We pieced back together a hundred little shreds of paper. That was pretty exciting,” she said. “Once we were able to put the note together and realized that this is the note, that’s a pretty good feeling.”
Officers read Kourima his rights, and he asked for a lawyer, Ellering said.
“We just chatted about where he was from and how clean his apartment was,” she said. “It was a lovely chat. He’s a very personable, well-educated man.”
He’s now in the Benton County jail and has been charged with aggravated robbery in the second degree.
“My opinion is that he was very repentant and felt very sorry for what he had done. He didn’t say it and we couldn’t ask him questions once he asked for his attorney,” Ellering said. “You just kind of shake your head. People have different reasons for doing things. Obviously he must have been at a very low point to make that choice. Something led him to do it.”
And why the change of heart?
“Who knows,” Ellering said.“We were excited to wrap up a bank robbery in three hours. That’s pretty amazing.”
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.