By Mark Vasto
In a scene that seemed to pretty much occur according to script, two armed gunmen in masks robbed Parkville's Commerce Bank Wednesday morning, making off with an as yet undisclosed amount of cash.
In and out quickly, multiple getaway cars and police hot in pursuit, the robbery was dramatic for onlookers and traumatic for workers of the bank's Parkville Commons branch on Route 45.
No shots were fired and nobody was harmed in the incident, which took less than a minute. One man is in custody.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Parkville police confirmed that the robbery occurred around 10:15 a.m. when two masked men strode into the bank with handguns drawn and demanded money. The bank's branch manager is said to have calmly acquiesced to the bandit’s demands who then immediately left the building, skidding out of the parking lot in a getaway car.
Investigators said the men immediately switched cars in the Walgreen's parking lot.
Now driving a gold colored SUV, the men traveled east on Route 45, speeding towards I-29 but were immediately intercepted by Kansas City, Missouri police who pursued the suspects down I-635. Kansas City, Kansas police joined the chase once the suspects crossed the river. They ultimately exited at the Leavenworth Avenue exit and crashed on the front lawn of a house on 33rd and Webber in Kansas City, Kansas. The driver of the car, described as a young black male, was immediately apprehended but the passenger, described as a 6-feet tall black male of medium build, was able to escape with some of the cash despite the efforts of a K-9 unit. Police recovered a duffel bag filled with cash and a mask from the vehicle.
Meanwhile, back in Parkville, Parkville Chief of Police Kevin Chrisman said response to the incident was almost immediate. Two squad cars secured the scene and Chief Chrisman bolstered the effort by requesting aid from surrounding municipalities. Chrisman thanked Weatherby Lake and Kansas City's North Patrol for their assistance. Chrisman said Weatherby Lake sent an officer to help secure the scene and that a crime scene technician was provided by the North Patrol.
“I made the request to [Weatherby Lake Police] Chief McMullen and [Kansas City's] Jim Corwin,” Chrisman said. “They did help out and that was nice.” Parkville has a mutual aid agreement with several area law enforcement agencies.
Chrisman said employees at the branch were understandably shaken but “in pretty good spirits” after the incident.
“They should be applauded for their poise and composure during this traumatic incident,” Chrisman said.
Chrisman said the investigation was then turned over to the FBI, since bank robberies are considered federal offenses. The first group of plain clothes agents arrived at the scene in about 20 minutes, Chrisman said. Auditors from Commerce Bank followed soon after, there to assess the amount stolen. Investigators located the first getaway car an hour and a half later. Michael K. Scott, 53, of Kansas City, Kansas was charged with the crime as the Luminary went to press. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years without parole in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. At press time, his partner in crime was still at large.
Area Robberies ‘Infrequent’
Longtime area banker and Commerce Bank Vice President Tim Rice said he was not on the premises during the robbery. Rice said he could not comment on the Wednesday incident but said he had been through two bank robberies during his career.
“It definitely makes you think twice about what's important in life,” Rice said, adding that the incidents did not occur in the Parkville area.
Rice said that to his knowledge, the last time a bank robbery occurred in Parkville it was the old Farmer's Exchange bank (now Patriot's Bank) in downtown Parkville, sometime during the 1960s. Chrisman said that he did not have any recent record of bank robberies in Parkville.
“It's a very infrequent experience for Parkville,” Rice said. “I don't know the mindset of a criminal, but I would think that Parkville's location and distance from the highways makes it a bad choice.”
Return of Depression Era Sprees?
In comments to The Luminary, Chrisman indicated that he did not expect copycat crimes and said that the other banks in town were aware of the incident and acted accordingly. Still, due to Platte and nearby Clay County's place in bank robber legend and folklore – Platte County saw a shootout with Bonnie and Clyde and Clay was the headquarters of Jesse James -- some people are wondering if Wednesday's robbery was a reflection of the current recession.
In actuality, bank robbery yields the second highest clearance and conviction rate of any serious crime (second only to murder) and thanks to federal insurance, increased security and stiffer penalties, is actually on the decline in America.
The FBI said that during the third quarter of 2009, there were 1,212 reported violations of the Federal Bank Robbery and Incidental Crimes Statue, a decrease from the 1,378 reported violations in the same quarter of 2008. In 90 percent of the crimes, thieves made off with loot, an amount that totaled $9.4 million -- $2.2 million was returned, however.
Wednesday's robbery would seem to fit into the general modus operandi for a typical bank robbery. Statistics from the FBI show that while Friday is the most popular day to rob a bank (247), Wednesday is a close second (236); banks are robbed mainly between the hours of 9-11 a.m.; usually are counters in branches (1,148) in commercial districts (818) or shopping centers (277), and; typically are found in metropolitan (577) or small towns (403).
While weapons are used or threatened in most bank robberies, violent incidents occurred in only 5 percent of the cases and the only deaths, 5, were suffered by the would-be bank robbers.
As in the Parkville incident, most bank robbers are caught the same day (60 percent). Armed gunmen, like the ones in Parkville, are more likely to use masks (59 percent).
Anecdotally speaking, recent bank robberies in the Kansas City region do not suggest that we are about to see the return of “Baby Face” Nelson, John Dillinger or “Pretty Boy” Floyd. To wit:
*In May, 2009, Vincent Perkins, 40, of Kansas City, stole $3,129 from First Federal Bank but left his wallet on the teller's counter. He was convicted in November.
*Darnell Richmond, 47, robbed the UMB bank in downtown KCK last May and was arrested when he tried to escape by running into a large building on 6th and State Avenue – the Robert Dole U.S. Courthouse Building.
*Mark McAvinew, 52, of Kansas City, stole $3,170 from the Metcalf Bank on December 29 and fled in a van that bore the name of his heating and cooling company. Surveillance footage of the van was aired on TV and he was identified shortly thereafter by a credible source: his wife.