ST. GEORGE – An armed bank robbery Thursday afternoon resulted in a kidnapping, police pursuit and eventually the fatal shooting of an individual believed to be the robbery suspect.
The robbery took place at about 1:45 p.m. Thursday at Zions Bank, located at 717 River Road. St. George Police responded to a robbery in progress and were also notified that two hostages had been taken from the bank by the suspect, St. George Police Officer Derek Lewis said during a press conference. The suspect, reportedly armed with a handgun and a shotgun, forced the two hostages, later identified as two female bank employees, into one of their own vehicles, a silver Volkswagen Touareg, according to a press release from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The suspect was described as man wearing dark clothing, dark shorts and a yellow wig and beard and carrying a red duffel bag. Police have not yet identified the suspect.
Officers spotted the suspect traveling east on Foremaster Drive and pursued him.
“During the pursuit, the suspect fired several shots at our officers, striking several officer vehicles,” Lewis said.
None of the pursuing officers themselves were hit by the gunfire.
The video below features footage from the area where the police had their final encounter with the suspect. Audio featured is from police scanner traffic detailing the incident, as later confirmed.
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Videocast by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
The pursuit progressed east on Riverside Drive and then went into Washington City, where the suspect abandoned the vehicle and also left the hostages behind and fled on foot into the Washington Fields area. The two women kidnapped from the bank remained with the vehicle.
“The hostages were found unharmed,” Washington County Sheriff Sgt. Dave Crouse said.
During the pursuit, Washington County School District schools were placed on lockdown until the situation resolved. Police also asked people in the Washington Fields area to stay in their homes.
Lewis said police set up a containment area between Washington Fields Road and River Road and around the Virgin River. The area is a mix of residential subdivisions and wilderness area, Ed Kantor, Washington City Police public information officer, said.
“SWAT teams and search parties were coordinated and searched the area of the Virgin River in Washington,” Crouse said. “The search parties did encounter the suspect in the Virgin River area. Shots were fired. At this time we do know multiple officers were involved in the shooting … I can confirm at this time that the suspect believed to be involved in the bank robbery is deceased.”
The final encounter with the suspect occurred between 4-4:30 p.m.
Crouse declined to say which specific police agency may have been involved in the shooting, though it is known that agencies involved in the overall pursuit included the St. George and Washington City Police, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Utah Highway Patrol. State and federal agencies were also involved. Two helicopters were also used in the search for the suspect.
No officers were injured during the final encounter with the suspect.
“We are very pleased with the outcome right now … The homeowners and the residents in the area no longer need to be on the alert,” Crouse said.
Whitnee Holt, who lives in the area near where police found the suspect, said she was listening to a police scanner in her home with a friend when they both suddenly heard an exchange of gunfire outside.
“I looked to my friend and said, ‘I think those are gunshots,'” Holt said, “and then we heard a series of other gunshots and then my husband came in and said ‘Get down!’ and so we all got down. We then looked out the window and saw paramedics coming down the road.”
The Washington County School District began to lift the lockdown status of the various schools in the area following news of the suspect’s apprehension and subsequently confirmed death.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
St. George News reporter Kimberly Scott contributed to this report.
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