|Palisade credit union robbed at gunpoint|
|Written by Wauneta Breeze|
|Thursday, 21 April 2011 21:20|
Evidence was gathered at the Pioneer Community Federal Credit Union in Palisade Monday, with FBI Investigator Drew Armstrong, Hitchcock County Deputy Ronald Daugherty, Hitchcock County Sheriff Bryan Leggott and a State Patrol Officer working together in gathering evidence at the scene of the robbery. (Wauneta Breeze Photos | Tina Kitt)
Suspect taken into custody on Highway 23
By Tina Kitt
The Wauneta Breeze
The sense of security that comes with living in a small western Nebraska town was undermined for Palisade residents Monday when a masked gunman walked into the local credit union and robbed two female employees at gunpoint.
According to Hitchcock County Sheriff Bryan Leggott, his office received a 911 telephone call at 9:50 a.m. CT indicating that the Pioneer Community Federal Credit Union in Palisade had been robbed by a masked gunman for an undisclosed amount of currency.
The gunman caught the attention of several Palisade residents as he strode up the sidewalk into the credit union building.
Across the street to the east of the credit union, Wauneta-Palisade Co-op Oil employee Karleen Cooper took note of the masked man carrying what appeared to be a gun and a duffle bag entering the credit union and told fellow employee Maxine Scott that she thought the bank was being robbed.
Bill Lawless and Alan Baxter were standing just a few feet away from the credit union door when they saw the masked man enter the building Monday morning.
“From the South we seen what appeared to be a man with a white sweatshirt on with a black scarf around his face, had a hood on his sweatshirt, some sort of an assault rifle and walked right past us, we were probably 3 foot away from him,” Baxter said in an interview with NTV News.
Baxter promptly headed across the street to call the police and Lawless looked through the glass to see what was going on.
“He had that gun pointed right at Tonya,” said Lawless, referring to Pioneer Community FCU’s manager Tonya Placzek.
Hitchcock County Sheriff Bryan Leggott and FBI Investigator Drew Armstrong dust the frame of the credit union door for fingerprints as they gather evidence following Monday morning’s armed robbery in Palisade.
She and fellow credit union employee Patty Anderjaska were the only two people in the building when the gunman entered. According to Hitchcock County Sheriff Bryan Leggott neither one was harmed in the incident.
While Baxter sought the help of law enforcement Lawless, the older of the two men, kept an eye on the credit union, assessing the situation and taking note of the direction the gunman fled.
“I told Alan that he had run around the corner,” said Lawless pointing west of the credit union. Baxter chased after the suspect in the direction pointed out by Lawless and caught a glimpse of him climbing into a dark colored vehicle described as being either a hatchback car or station wagon.
According to Leggott, witnesses confirmed that the suspect vehicle proceeded south and east of Palisade. This information was radioed to other law enforcement agencies across southwest Nebraska.
Subsequently, later that morning the Nebraska State Patrol stopped a vehicle matching the description of the suspect vehicle reportedly involved with the bank robbery on State Highway 23 east of Grant.
Inside the car was 36-year-old Joel Witt of rural McCook. He was detained, questioned and arrested in connection with the Palisade robbery.
Bill Lawless, second from left, discusses his close brush with the armed robber with other Palisade-area residents outside the Palisade Post Office as they watch additional law enforcement officers arriving down the street at the credit union.
It is believed that Witt lived in Palisade as a child, moving away from the community when he was about junior high age, according to Palisade residents.
Leggott, Deputy Ronald Daugherty, FBI investigator Drew Armstrong and members of the Nebraska State Patrol were in Palisade gathering evidence throughout the day Monday.
A handwritten sign on the credit union door reads: Closed til further notice.
The incident remains under investigation as a cooperative effort between the Hitchcock County Sheriff’s Office, the Nebraska State Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The suspect remained in custody at the Hitchcock County jail in Trenton as of Wednesday morning.
The Sheriff’s Office declined to release any further information or details.
According to Web site information, Pioneer Community Federal Credit Union of Palisade has 470 members and assets of $2 million. The credit union, opened in 2002, has one full time employee and one part-time employee.
School under lockdown
As a cautionary step, the Palisade Attendance Center went into lockdown as word of the armed robbery filtered around town.
According to WP Superintendent Dr. Stan Sibley, this is a routine cautionary measure implemented whenever there is a possible risk to students and staff.
Among the steps taken, the outside perimeter of the Palisade school was secured, exterior doors were locked and students kept inside the building until it was determined there was no longer a threat present in the community.
Extra precautionary measures were taken in transporting students between the Palisade and Wauneta Attendance Centers as well.
“This should serve as a reminder to us all that although we live a rural community not typically witness to what are considered more urban crimes, these things can happen anywhere — even here — and adjust accordingly,” noted Sibley.