Arrest in bank robberies

Suspect is tackled by restaurant owner in Ellicott City

June 09, 2006|By LARRY CARSON | LARRY CARSON,SUN REPORTER

The man suspected of being a serial bank robber nicknamed "Speed Racer" just wasn't fast enough - he was chased down by a 240-pound restaurant owner and former soccer player who tackled and held him after a robbery in Ellicott City on Wednesday.

Luvine A. Summers Jr., 30, of Reisterstown was being held by federal authorities yesterday, charged with robbing the Provident Bank branch in the 9300 block of Baltimore National Pike, said FBI Special Agent Michelle Crnkovich. His capture could clear as many as a dozen bank robberies in at least three counties, she said.

The "Speed Racer" nickname was born in May last year when, 15 minutes after the American Bank branch on Ridge Road in Ellicott City was robbed, a man thought to be the same thief robbed a Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union office in Baltimore County, FBI officials said.

FOR THE RECORD - Because of incorrect information provided by the FBI, the nickname of a man suspected of being a serial bank robber who was caught by an Ellicott City restaurant owner was incorrect in yesterday's editions. The man is not known as "Speed Racer," according to FBI spokeswoman Michelle Crnkovich. The Sun regrets the error.
Because of incorrect information provided by the FBI, an article published Friday misidentified a bank on a list of several that have been robbed since last year. Hopkins Federal Savings, in the 1700 block Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, was robbed.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Joe Mannarelli, 35, the owner of Serafino's Italian restaurant, knew nothing of that about 3 p.m. Wednesday as, while sitting in a booth talking to a friend, he saw a red dye pack explode in the backpack of a man dressed like a construction worker who was jogging past the restaurant window.

Mannarelli knew that the Provident branch in a small shopping center a few dozen yards from his restaurant had been robbed May 24. That time, a cook at Serafino's greeted a man who walked by, learning later that he had probably been the robber.

This time, Mannarelli said, he didn't think. He reacted when he saw the dye pack go off.

"I jumped out of my seat and ran outside and yelled `Stop!' but he wasn't stopping," the 5-foot-9-inch Mannarelli said yesterday. The suspect was about 6 feet tall and weighed about 200 pounds, according to police descriptions.

On foot, Mannarelli followed the man, who wore a construction hard hat, a reflective safety vest and jeans, toward the Crab Shanty Restaurant on Plum Tree Drive, where the suspect ran onto the grounds of an apartment complex.

"I stayed back a little," Mannarelli said, in case the man was armed. But the man said nothing and kept going until he circled back to Plum Tree, where a passing car caused him to stop momentarily. That gave Mannarelli a chance to jump onto the man's back and knock him down. He used his knee to pin the man face-first on the street.

"He went down. It was crazy," Mannarelli said.

The man struggled to get free, but Mannarelli, a 1989 Mount Hebron High School graduate, held on until several Serafino employees - and then Howard County police officers - caught up.

"My mother called me last night yelling at me," Mannarelli said sheepishly. "You've got three kids!" he said she reminded him.

Baltimore FBI officials said the capture could end a long string of bank robberies, all perpetrated by a man who held his hand as if he had a weapon and left quickly after getting cash.

They think the same man has been robbing banks for more than a year, starting with an April 14, 2005, robbery in Fullerton, Baltimore County, and including another Provident Bank branch in Abingdon, Harford County, on Feb. 8. The American Bank branch in Ellicott City was robbed April 15 last year.

A reward of up to $8,500 was offered for information leading to an arrest.larry.carson@baltsun.com

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