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Akeley bank suspect seemed experienced, sheriff says

The Akeley branch of First National Bank of Walker was robbed at gunpoint Friday evening just before closing time. (Sarah Smith/Enterprise)

It was 25 minutes before closing time Friday when an armed stranger, dressed in a baseball cap and sunglasses, walked into an Akeley bank, pointed his gun at the teller and said, "Put the money in this bag."

She hastily complied.

"He was in and out in less than 30 seconds," said Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer, whose department is assisting the FBI in the investigation of the heist at First National Bank of Walker's Akeley branch.

Homer said the man and the dark blue Chevy Tahoe SUV had been spotted in town about an hour before the robbery, but in a town of less than 400, he was not known, Homer said,

The suspect remained at large Saturday. The bank employees "said they had not seen him before," Homer said.

Because of the dirty condition of the SUV, Homer said authorities have been unable to get a license plate off the vehicle, so it is unknown if it is a Minnesota-registered truck.

An unknown amount of cash was taken from a single teller drawer, the sheriff said.

Three women were on duty at the time, Homer said. The bank closes at 6 p.m. Fridays.

"They didn't panic given the situation with a gun being involved," he said, "They were really courageous. They did what he asked."

The FBI and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were scanning bank security tapes Saturday while the search was on. They were also working with the video to enhance the man's picture. Once that is done, it will be released to the public.

Homer said the man seemed to know what he was doing.

"He wasn't going to waste a lot of time" in the bank, Homer said. "He'd either studied how to do it before or done it before," he said of the suspect's level of expertise.

The man was dressed in a camouflaged jacket and jeans. He's Caucasian, around 5'10" with a heavy build of around 210 pounds and is believed to be in his 40s or 50s.

Akeley's police chief has been on paid suspension for alleged misconduct and was not on duty, so the first officer on the scene was from neighboring Nevis.

Dep. Jeff Stacey said the FBI and BCA were quickly brought in. Officers from the Minnesota State Patrol also responded, along with Hubbard County deputies and investigators.

First National Bank of Walker has $256.5 million in assets and has branch banks in Longville, Backus and Hackensack, along with the Akeley branch.

Homer asks if anyone has information in regard to the robbery, they are asked to call 218-732-3331.

Meanwhile, Akeley was buzzing Saturday with news of the robbery.

"News travels fast," said Denise, a clerk at the T&M Express convenience store kitty corner to the bank, which is located at the intersections of Highway 34 and 64 in town.