Downtown bank robbed

Police don't believe gun was used in theft

Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2005

Police went room to room through the Gastineau Apartments Wednesday afternoon after an unmasked man robbed the First National Bank a half block away and ran in the building's direction.

Officers had identified a "person of interest" but had not located him for questioning, Capt. Tom Porter said, outside of the bank at 238 Front St. Officers inside continued to gather evidence.

At about 3:25 p.m., a lone man in dark clothing entered the bank with a duffle bag, handed a teller a note saying he was robbing the bank and fled on foot, in the direction of the Gastineau Apartments, Porter said.

"There were no weapons we've heard of," he said.

Cori Tocco, manager of the Jewel Box several doors down from the bank, said she saw a "younger man in dark clothes" run past but didn't know the bank had been robbed until someone told her 15 minutes later.

"I didn't think much of it at the time," she said. "I thought he was trying to catch a bus."

He appeared to be carrying a duffel bag or a backpack, she said.

By 5 p.m., four police vehicles were parked outside the Gastineau Apartments, at the corner of Front and Franklin streets. Some items were removed from the building and taken into evidence, including a duffel bag. Porter said the bag matched the description of the bag seen by the man.

"There was nothing in it," he said.

He said it was against department policy to say how much money the man took. Employees working in the bank at the time waved off questions and said they couldn't talk.

The Gastineau Apartments building is equipped with a security camera, and banks have security cameras that continuously take still pictures. While they could possibly help identify the robber and show if he entered the apartment building, Porter said investigators would have to see what they hold before counting on them as evidence.

The robber's descriptions, provided by witnesses, weren't specific. He was described as a white man wearing dark clothing, including a vest, and his height was in question, Porter said. Some judged he was as tall as 6 feet. Others reported he may have been shorter.

One man wearing a dark vest was stopped by police and questioned. Porter said he was cleared and not considered a suspect in the robbery.

"There is nothing to indicate (the robber) was working with someone else," he said. "There was nothing to indicate he got into a vehicle.

In addition to converging at the Gastineau Apartments, officers searched uphill, beyond the apartment building and up Rawn Way, a staircase walkway. Investigators continued to collect evidence from the bank into the night.

Porter said he didn't know the date of the last bank robbery. The Empire reported an April, 24, 2001, robbery, when Alaska Pacific Bank's downtown branch was held up by a man who indicated he had a handgun but didn't display one.

Later that year, 21-year-old James Louis Gregory Shales pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from the Alaska Pacific robbery and was sentenced in federal court in Anchorage to 46 months in prison. Shales also was ordered to pay $200 restitution to the bank.

Because people can leave Juneau only by boat or plane, people can't run as far as they could in other places, Porter said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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