Two masked bandits escape with $35,500
The Forest City Courier
Two bank robbers are still at large, and so is $35,500, following a Thursday noon hold up at the Haynes Bank in Cliffside.
According to Vice President W. B. (Bill) Jenkins, two men dressed in all-weather coats and ski-masks came running into the bank about 11:50 Thursday. “At first, we all thought it was some kind of prank,” Jenkins said. But he reported that when the two ordered all of those in the bank (seven at the time) to back away. Jenkins said one of the men held a gun while the other emptied the cash drawers into a canvas bag.
Jenkins said the robbers were apparently nervous, and the one holding the gun was particularly ill-at-ease in that he had to steady his automatic pistol across his arm.
As the two men left the bank, the seven bank employees were ordered to lie on the floor. Jenkins said he was in the process of lying back when he realized the two weren’t waiting to see if all actually did lay flat on the floor. As soon as he heard the door of the bank close, he tripped the burglar alarm.
As the two hold-up men rounded the south corner of the bank the alarm sounded and the sound of gun fire rang out.
Five of the shots came through the window and apparently buried up in the walls and ceiling of the bank.
The reason for the shooting was that Deputy Sheriff Tom Dotson, was arriving at the bank to make a personal deposit. When Dotson arrived at the bank, according to the reports, he saw inside the bank, and caught a glimpse of the employees with their hands in the air. Dotson, being off duty at the time, reportedly returned to his car for his firearms, and returned in time to see the men leaving the bank. He fired on both of them. One of the robbers got into a car, Dotson fired through the windshield of the car, but failed to stop the robber. The other man, believed to have carried the money with him, fled on foot in all the confusion, and was the subject of an 8-10 hour search in the woods surrounding Cliffside.
No arrests had been made as of press time today, according to Sheriff Damon Huskey, but the car in which one of the robbers fled was located late the same evening near the South Carolina State Line on a road that connects highway 221 with 221-A.
The Sheriff, in a radio report this morning, voiced optimism that arrests should be made soon.
The Thursday robbery was the second in as many years, and the third in the last eight years. The 1968 robbery at the Haynes bank is still unsolved as are hold-ups at a Caroleen bank, a Bostic bank, and the bank at Lake Lure.
Reprinted with permission from The Daily Courier. Copyright owned by The Daily Courier.
The Shelby Star
CLIFFSIDE — Rutherford County Deputy Sheriff Tom Dotson won’t soon forget Thursday, a day on which he had a shootout with two masked bandits escaping with their loot from the Haynes Bank in Cliffside.
The robbers evaded officers yesterday and were still at large today. The $35,500 taken in the robbery has not been recovered.
Deputy Dotson, off duty but still wearing his officer’s uniform, parked his car in front of the bank shortly before noon and started inside to make a deposit.
When he reached the door, he spotted the bank employes near a back wall with their hands raised in the air and a masked man holding them at bay with a pistol while another rifled the cash drawers.
Dotson, who afterwards said he was “scared to death and really didn’t know what to do,” instinctly rushed back to his car to radio for help and to get his shotgun. While he was still in his car, the two bandits, carrying their sack of money, came running out of the bank.
Dotson, jumping from his car, yelled “halt” but the men kept running toward a car parked on the south side of the building. Dotson opened fire with his shotgun. About the same time a bank employe set off the alarm in the bank.
One of the culprits, apparently frightened by the shotgun blast and shrill alarm by-passed the car and fled by foot toward the rear of the bank, firing one shot from a pistol as he ran.
The other one remained in the car, which was facing toward Cliffside’s main street, and started driving again almost at point-blank range toward the road. Dotson fired. “I shot the windshield out in his face,” Dotson said.
The bandit backed up the narrow street, drove around the bank and cameout through the drive-in window driveway in the other side. Dotson meanwhile had gone to the other front corner of the bank and was waiting for him when he came around. His pistol at the ready, he fired five times at the escaping car, but the robber made good his getaway. “He didn’t stop but I believe I hit him,” said the deputy. “I should have got him,” he added dejectedly. “But I was scared.”
Dotson, having already radioed for help, set out after the man who escaped on foot.
Later, other deputies, highway patrolmen, and handlers and bloodhounds from a Burke County prison unit arrived to help in the chase.
A short distance behind the bank, not far from Broad River, officers found a long, maroon all-weather coat, riddled with buckshot in the back but free of any blood. Nearby they found a pair of gloves and a ski mask. The bandit apparently shed his excess weight as he sought to avoid capture.
The trail wound up the side of the river, then along the railroad tracks toward Henrietta. While other officers with the bloodhound followed the trail on foot, dozens of others scoured the area in their patrol cars.
Armed officers were stationed at various points, waiting in case the bandit came out of the woods. Even one preacher, John Lucas, pastor of Cliffside Baptist Church, waited along the route, armed with a pistol given him earlier by Rutherford County Sheriff Damon Huskey.
The rough terrain was scouted for hours but finally went cold at the intersection of paved roads between Cliffside and Henrietta. Officers doubled back and started the dog off at a warehouse just outside Cliffside on N.C. 221-A and picked up a good track, but still failed to flush the bandit. It was thought that a motorist must have picked him up.
About five hours after the robbery the car was found abandoned near a house about four miles south of Cliffside. Its windshield had been shattered. A black mask was found inside the car. Officers said a pistol also was found in the car.
The car rammed over an embankment outside the home of Albert Kinney, whose wife is a teller at the bank. Kinney returned home from his textile plant job, looked out a window, saw the car and notified officers.
Meanwhile back at the bank, following the robbery, the shades were pulled and the doors locked while FBI agents interviewed bank employes and made an audit of the bank funds. The audit showed $35,500 was missing.
Reprinted with permission from The Daily Star. Copyright owned by The Daily Star.
Clippings courtesy Ann Cargill.