INVESTIGATING NEPA June 18, 2017
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING THIS WEEK
Covering the story on the serial bank robber, the man who has now held up 12 banks, brings a challenge. We need to continue to cover this aggressively, but we also need to be careful that we do not romanticize this dangerous man. We got our first look at the robber via a composite sketch when someone, according to the FBI got a look at him before he put on his mask, then went into the NBT Branch in Eynon, and ran out the back door. The surveillance video within my story Thursday, shows his boldest and most disturbing hold up yet.
You won’t get the gist of the danger of what happened earlier this month at the bank because NBT asked that the faces of its workers in the bank be blurred out. The bank’s decision is understandable and done out of respect for its workers who were terrified. I happened to see the unblurred version, and it showed a situation that could leave emotional scars with everyone in the bank. Everyone had the robber’s pistol pointed at them at some time. The video shows, one woman recognized a robber was about to enter the two sets of front doors. She rushed to the inside front door to lock it, but that door needed to be locked with keys, and the robber gets there just moments after she inserts the key, but does not have time to turn it. As the robber gets inside the bank, he shoves the woman who tried to lock him out to the ground. The robber goes right to the teller, points a gun at her, and I am assuming he orders her to put money in a bag. As this takes place a man who many be the branch manager emerges from his office. The robber pulls his gun away from the teller and points it at the man, and a woman sitting at a desk. The woman who tried to lock him out and was shoved to the ground remains on the floor. The robber then turns his attention to the teller, who hands him a bag, presumably with money. The robber then runs out the back door, through the bank parking lot, through a hedge of bushes and trees to the parking lot of a medical office…returning to the trees briefly because it knocked off his hat. This all took 30 seconds.
Having seen the initial version of the holdup, I found the looks on the faces of the witnesses working at the bank, haunting. The woman who was shoved to the ground appears to be in her 50’s and she was moments away from being a hero…if only she could have finished locking the door before the robber barged in. The teller who filled a bag with money while staring at the robber’s pistol collapsed after he ran out the back door. Working at a bank should not be dangerous. This is the second time this branch has been held up, and at least one of the employees there was present for the first robbery in December. How much more can they take?
The back door of the branch has been locked from the outside since the December heist but because of fire escape rules, the robber was able to leave through the back door, after he got the loot. This composite sketch gives us a better look at the serial robber, hopefully it will help lead to his capture before he holds up his 13th bank.
It is important not to romanticize this bank robber, as sometimes the media can help do by feeding into the public’s fascination with mobsters, celebrities who turn criminal, and yes, bank robbers.
In the last century, Bonnie and Clyde were robbing banks throughout the south, while John Dillinger was doing the same in the Midwest. The public ate it up. Bonnie and Clyde were revered for their boldness, John Dillinger for his movie star good looks. When I worked in Dayton, Ohio, the nearby community of New Carlisle had a pizzeria in a building that once housed a bank. And outside the building sat a plaque commemorating that it was the first bank John Dillinger ever held up. Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde robbed banks during the great depression and there was a segment of America who cheered them on because the crooks were seen as sticking it to the establishment. But the reality was, and still is, bank robbers are thugs, who live on the run, often at times in squalor.
One of my news directors in my Tampa, Florida was a man named Kevin Brennan, who really had a great vision of how news should be presented on local TV. One of the stories I covered involved a 19-year-old thug named Adam Davis, who murdered his girlfriend’s mother in her home back in 1998.
Adam was known to his gang of druggies as “Snake.” I referenced Davis as Snake in a live shot, and later had a not so pleasant talking to from Kevin. He said it felt like we as a station were glorifying the killer by using that reference, and the boss was right. Davis is now on Florida's Death Row. Back to the present, if this serial robber continues his spree of 12 banks in 18 months, he may soon be tabbed with a nickname. If it’s the kind of nickname that gives him street cred, let’s not use it. Let’s instead hope the serial bank robber in NEPA is off the street before he earns a nickname.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD THIS WEEKEND
GOOD-Brooks Koepke won his first major at the US Open and was an unbelievable 16 under par. The tournament lacked star power with the top three golfers in the world missing the cut. Ricky Fowler was the only real well-known player in the hunt and he faded down the stretch. But there was a lot of great golf played, and was worth Sunday afternoon at the bar.
BAD- The Sunday Morning Network News Shows proving they really don’t have a grip on the whole Trump/Russia/Muller investigation. I really look forward to these shows, and respect the majority of guests, liberal and conservative alike. But when it comes to this subject, nothing of substance new happened this week. I don’t know what the investigation will cover, and I am not one of those, “let’s just wait for the investigation to take its course,” but I have seen no evidence tying the President to collusion with Russia during the election (his campaign team is another story), and this week’s shows were like watching a repeat of last week’s shows. The programs would have been better served with a look at foreign affairs, or the upcoming tax proposals.
GOOD-Paul McCartney turned 75 Fathers Fay. And to think when I was a kid, he wondered what life would be like when he was 64.
BAD-One of the most memorable characters of one of the best comedies ever made died this weeken. Stephen Furst was a great actor who played a lot of roles, but will always be remembered as “Flounder” in Animal House, which along with Caddieshack, and Blazing Saddles, is the best comedy movie ever.
GOOD-This toast to Fathers Day by Mitch Albom, who’s intelligence, wit, and writing I never get tired of.
THIS BLOG’S FUTURE
I will continue writing away, but instead of a weekly blog, I plan on writing two or three a week. The work will be the same, but the blogs will be shorter, and cover fewer subject. My blog will focus on my passion: Investigative Reporting and Television News. I will also have plenty to say about my family, and my other passions, food, golf, music, and other things that interest me. I will also be experimenting with VLOGS, or video blogs. Your comments and feedback is always welcome.