Bank robbery suspects get winded on the lam Seniors, brier patch hamper their efforts

June 23, 1992|By Michael James and Robert A. Erlandson | Michael James and Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writers

Leaving a trail of $100 and $50 bills behind them as they tried to flee from a group of angry villagers, two alleged bank robbers were caught yesterday by two senior citizens, a firefighter and an auto mechanic.

The two men ran from the Sparks State Bank in Hereford at 1:35 p.m., with money flying out of their hands, and took off across a grassy field -- only to be ensnared by briers and the locals who came to the rescue.

"I yelled, 'Catch him! He's a bank robber!' " said Howard Rosier, 67, a retired door-to-door insurance salesman who spotted the men as he was driving to the local pharmacy to get a lottery ticket.

The culprits became so entangled and exhausted running through the thicket in the field that they dropped their guns and most of the stolen money.

"They didn't realize all the briers and bushes were there. They got all tangled up. One fell down," said Mr. Rosier, a burly, tall man. "They were dropping hundreds, fifties, twenties and tens. Money was scattered everywhere."

It was at that point that Mr. Rosier of Hereford and his friend, 70-year-old Bert Thomas of Monkton, confronted the two men as they emerged from the field.

Mr. Rosier said that the four men came head-to-head at a shopping center parking lot just up the street from the bank, located in the 200 block of Mount Carmel Road.

One of the men had become so short-winded that he surrendered to the two older men, but one kept on running back toward the brier patch, Mr. Rosier said.

Mr. Rosier and Mr. Thomas waited with the first suspect for police to arrive and two other citizens, who heard Mr. Rosier's cries, began chasing the second man.

They were an auto mechanic in his 30s and a volunteer firefighter, both of whom asked police not to release their names, said Baltimore County Police Officer Joe Smith.

"The robber made it part way back up the hill and he was exhausted from running. He just stopped, put up his hand and said, 'You've got me, I'm done,' " the men told Officer Smith.

Police arrived several minutes later and arrested James R. Vest,29, of the 900 block of S. Clinton St., Baltimore, and William Frank Shimp, 25, of the 7900 block of St. Bridgett's Lane, Dundalk. They were charged with armed robbery.

Police recovered two small-caliber handguns from the field. One of the suspects told police that the weapons they weren't loaded.

Mr. Rosier said that he'd forgotten about the dangers of a gun in the heat of the moment. "I never gave a gun a thought," he said.

A crowd of about 15 onlookers, who watched the botched getaway and saw the cash flying through the air, helped pick up the bills. All of it is believed to have been returned to the bank, police said.

Mr. Thomas, who helped gather the money, said he became tired out just going up the hill and through some of the bushes.

"It's quite thick," he said.

Sgt. Daniel Baumiller of the Cockeysville precinct said he hasnever seen such community involvement in a crime before.

"We obviously don't encourage people to do this as a matter of routine," he said. "We don't recommend that if you see a bank robber, you should chase him. But all's well that ends well."

The group of men will probably be presented with some sort of plaque for their local heroism, Sergeant Baumiller said.

As for Mr. Rosier and Mr. Thomas, after the commotion was over, they went back to the pharmacy where they had intended to go in the first place. And they bought their lottery ticket.

"I don't claim no credit," Mr. Rosier said.

"Funny thing is, though, that if they hadn't run right in front of us, they probably would have gotten away."

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