Freeborn Bank robbed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2003

A man was shot in the chin by a Freeborn County sheriff’s deputy Monday afternoon, after he allegedly robbed a bank in Freeborn, fled the scene and fired numerous rounds at deputies with an assault rifle.

He eventually surrendered to law enforcement.

The man, who the sheriff’s office wouldn’t identify, was in surgery Monday afternoon.

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Without a name, the hospital would not release his condition. No one else was shot. A deputy scraped his leg during the incident, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The man, who appeared to be acting alone, walked into Farmers State Bank in Freeborn, shot an assault rifle several times into the ceiling and demanded money shortly after 2 p.m., Investigator Chuck Malepsy said.

&uot;He was very loud and very demanding,&uot; Malepsy said witnesses told him. He spent several minutes in the bank with the six employees and three customers, making one witness lie on the ground, Malepsy said.

As he left he fired at least two rounds outside of the bank before driving off in a Volkswagen compact with a garbage bag of money, Malepsy said.

Minutes later, a deputy recognized the car east of Freeborn from a witness’s description and began following it. The suspect then quickly turned off 675th Avenue near an abandoned farmhouse and began firing the rifle at the deputy, Sheriff Mark Harig said. He shot at another deputy as he approached in his squad car. Both cars have several bullet holes. As of Monday, deputies didn’t know how many rounds the man and the deputy fired, Harig said. BCA and the FBI are assisting in the investigation and collection of evidence. They worked late into the night Monday.

Harig, who grew up with the man and considered him a friend, convinced him to surrender after he was shot.

Harig didn’t know the man’s condition but was optimistic based on what he saw.

&uot;I am super happy nobody got hurt worse than they did,&uot; he said. &uot;This could have been a hell of a lot worse than it was.&uot;

He was upset the man almost killed his deputies, but had sympathy for him.

&uot;I feel real bad for him, but he’s made a real bad decision and he has to deal with consequences,&uot; he said. Harig said he wants to understand why he did what he did, and wants to get him help so it never happens again.

He said he’s seen the man only a few times in the last 20 years, like many of the people he graduated high school with.

&uot;You don’t see them, but you still care about them,&uot; he said. &uot;You still want them to be healthy and be successful and everything else. That doesn’t always happen.&uot;

Standing outside the bank in the cold rain shortly after the robbery, a group of men waited for their wives, who were being interviewed by law enforcement. The men expressed both shock and relief as they discussed something they didn’t think could happen in Freeborn, population 430. They also made sure no one touched the two bullet casings on the sidewalk.

&uot;I’m going to wait until I can see her,&uot; John McKean said of his wife, Marcia. &uot;She’s going to need some TLC.&uot;

McKean’s wife called him from inside the bank and told him not to worry if he heard about the robbery on the news.

McKean said his wife told him, &uot;I’m OK and everyone else is OK, too.&uot;

Passersby stopped outside the bank to find out what happened. There was little information at that point, and McKean told one man, &uot;This isn’t supposed to happen in a small town.&uot;

Three hours after the robbery, one of the husbands, Jim Beach, talked to his wife briefly when she poked her head out to joke with him and tell him she was OK.

&uot;She says she’s OK. Whether that’s true or not, who knows?&uot; he said afterward.

&uot;Once she starts to relax it’ll start to settle in.&uot;

(Contact Tim Sturrock at