Patron gives chase after bank robbery

Suspect arrested after 20-minute pursuit by customer

March 12, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

It started as a routine trip to the bank. But when William Gilde heard the teller at the Glen Burnie branch of the SunTrust Bank say she'd just been held up, he wasn't about to let a robber get away.

The chase was on.

Dashing into the parking lot in hopes of getting the getaway car's license plate number, Gilde instead became the pursuer in a chase that crossed three county lines, at speeds approaching 90 mph. When it ended on the shoulder of Interstate 95 in Howard County, Gilde was there - and the bank teller was soon on her way.

Throughout the pursuit, Gilde set aside any concerns that the man he was following might have been armed and dangerous.

"God just put a sense of peace over me," Gilde said in an interview yesterday. "I had committed to follow him, so I stuck with it."

Gilde, a 45-year-old electrical contractor who lives in Linthicum, was in line shortly before noon Friday at the SunTrust branch on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, waiting to transfer money into a payroll account for his business. That's when the teller said a man in the next line had robbed the bank.

Gilde ran to the parking lot and saw a man driving off in a red Chevrolet Blazer.

"I jumped in my truck to follow him so I could call the tag number in," Gilde said. "Then, I was following him so I could tell police which direction he was headed."

At one point, the man in the Blazer - apparently realizing Gilde was chasing him - pulled over and stopped on the ramp from Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard to the Baltimore Beltway. But instead of passing the man, Gilde pulled behind him and waited for him to take off again.

He did.

The man in the Blazer tried to outrun Gilde, using the left shoulder to pass cars.

"But the good Lord kept putting truck traffic in front of him," Gilde said.

He followed the Blazer on to the Beltway, down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, across Interstate 195 and then south on Interstate 95. Gilde was on his cellular telephone with 911 dispatchers during the entire 20-minute chase.

"We're pleased a citizen got involved," said Officer Charles Ravenell, an Anne Arundel County police spokesman. But the spokesman added that police wouldn't ask anyone to do anything that would jeopardize their safety.

The man in the Blazer eventually pulled to the side of the highway near Route 216, where a state trooper had stopped.

Gilde watched as several police cruisers converged upon the Blazer, stopping traffic.

"I think from watching Cops, I expected six officers to jump on him all at once and take him to the ground," Gilde said. "But that never happened. They put him in handcuffs, just like that."

Officers then brought the teller from the SunTrust Bank to the highway to identify the man, who was not armed, police said.

Jeffrey L. Johnson, 46, of Cross Junction, Va., has been charged with robbery and theft, police said. He was being held at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center last night.

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