A man accused of robbing the same Rochester bank on successive days was caught in the southern Twin Cities on Tuesday, soon after a news reporter on live television spotted the suspect and excused himself to call police, authorities said.
The initial robbery of Sterling Bank on Hwy. 52 near NW. 55th Street occurred late Monday morning, police said. Wearing a sweatshirt from a Minneapolis road race with the words “get lucky” on the front, the robber told the teller he had a gun, was given an undisclosed amount of cash and fled, police said.
The same man came back for more around noon Tuesday, went through the same routine and fled in a stolen van on northbound Hwy. 52, authorities said. The van was stopped near Coates in Dakota County, and a man was arrested.
The 36-year-old suspect has been living at a halfway house in Rochester after his release from federal prison for robbing a bank in Minneapolis in 2009, said Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin.
The aftermath of the second holdup was caught on live TV by a reporter from Mason City, Iowa, who was in front of the bank reporting on the previous day’s crime.
Adam Sallet of KIMT-TV had just begun his report when a bank employee came running out, pointing.
“That’s the robber,” the employee said. “That’s him right there.”
Sallet didn’t miss a beat.
“Oh, that’s the robber,” Sallet said, pointing his note pad in the direction of the fleeing perpetrator. “This is live TV, folks. That’s the robber — just went by, according to the bank employee. I have to go here and call 911. I’ll talk to you later.”
And with that, Sallet dashed off-camera.
News anchor Tyler Mickelson picked it up from there, saying, “I can assure you that was not set up.”
Police knew whom they were looking for because the suspect stopped for gas in the stolen van and used a fuel card, Sherwin said. A peek at the gas station video gave investigators a good look at the suspect, the captain said.
And as luck would have it, a Rochester officer leaving the Twin Cities after a training assignment was heading south on the highway near Cannon Falls, spotted the van — it had “hot tub” written on the side — and “flipped around and got behind it,” Sherwin said.
It would not be long before officers from several agencies caught up to the suspect in Dakota County.
Noting the message on the robber’s hoodie from the previous day’s stickup, Sherwin said, “I guess his luck ran out today.”