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Bank Hostage Situation Ends in Indiana

Aired September 4, 2001 - 14:10   ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going now out to the Lowell, Indiana. The chief of police is speaking with reporters about the conclusion of today's hostage event in that small town.


DAVE WILSON, LOWELL INDIANA POLICE DEPT.: Alarm from that address. The units began responding, and we began calling for assistance from other agencies.

At this point, I would like to introduce a few people here that were very important with this. First off, we have Chief Arredondo from the Lake County Sheriff's Department. We also have Sergeant Ann Wogis (ph) from the state police, and FBI agent Bob Reilley who's in charge of state operations for FBI. All of their agencies assisted, and we are very grateful for their assistance in this situation.

At that point, we identified we did have an armed subject inside the bank with nine employees as hostage. Approximately 10:37 negotiations began and the negotiation of two hostages were released at 10:37. Negotiations continued until approximately 12:20, when the last hostage, the bank employee -- bank manager Nancy Nethery was released, and at 12:25 the suspect surrendered to Lake County tactical units who took him into custody without incident. No one was harmed, no one was injured.

I would like to thank all of the agencies that did assist. Again, we were assisted by Lake County sheriff and state police immediately. Shortly after that, FBI and other federal agencies came in to assist us.

And I would like to turn it over to chief Arredondo at this point.

QUESTION: Could you spell your name please?

QUESTION: Spell your first and last name for us?

WILSON: It's David: D-a-v-i-d, last name is Wilson: W-i-l-s-o-n.

CHIEF MIKE ARREDONDO, LAKE CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT.: Mike. Last name: A-r-r-e-d-o-n-d-o, chief of the Lake County Sheriff's department. Basically, just to add into that, was that approximately at the time that the incident went down, was we received a call from the local police department requesting for us to have send our tactical unit to the bank. At which time, our tactical officers, along with our hostage negotiators were sent in and started to work with the, again, the FBI and the state police onscene immediately, and took over the Pizza Hut right next to it, just east of it, and used it as a command post to set up the negotiations with this subject.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) what was it like for the hostages? Did he have them on the floor? Did he point the gun at any of them? What transpired?

ARREDONDO: They're all being interviewed at this time. As far as being on the floor, I don't believe that that was one of the reasons -- or one of the things that happened there. As far as the gun, they all had felt a threat of them when he came in with the gun.

QUESTION: Sheriff, what have the witnesses told you from inside occurred when the man announced the robbery?

ARREDONDO: That's all being talked to right now about that, as far as whether he'd walked in and stated that there was going to be a robbery or not. We do know that at the time he put the gun in and told them to call the police.

QUESTION: What is the suspect's name?

ARREDONDO: David Potchen, Potchen. P-o-t-c-h-e-n.

QUESTION: How old is he?

ARREDONDO: He's 40 years old.

QUESTION: From where?

ARREDONDO: From Lowell.

QUESTION: What was his motive? What happened? Did he -- he didn't come in and demand money and they said no, and then he held them hostage? Or what happened?

ARREDONDO: That's all being discussed with these people at this time. It's actually trying to find out whether he walked in and asked for any money at all. He had just came in and told -- with the shotgun, and told them to call the police and that they were going to be there a while.

QUESTION: Sheriff, what were the conversations with the negotiators? How would you describe his motives, as well as was discussed?

ARREDONDO: The negotiators at the first hours to -- were actually not able to talk to the suspect. He had a person that was doing the intermediary -- talking between them, and I believe that might have been our bank manager there. She did a wonderful job of keeping everybody calm. This is something that could have went bad. But with the help, and all of these agencies that worked together, with our tactical team and negotiators from the FBI, the state police and the Lowell officers, that just shows you what happens when you do work together.

QUESTION: The bank manager acted as a go-between?

ARREDONDO: That's what he was having her do until the end, when the actual guy talked to us.

QUESTION: What's your sense of what made him release the hostages?

ARREDONDO: That's in the negotiation when he was demanding certain things such as food and cigarettes and that. We would trade him off that for one of the hostages.

QUESTION: Talk more about that. What food did he request? How did it transpire?

ARREDONDO: He requested a couple of Big Macs.

QUESTION: A couple Big Macs and a pack of cigarettes?

ARREDONDO: Yes, and some cigarettes.

QUESTION: What made him release them at the end, do you know?

ARREDONDO: Why he released everybody at the end? He was going to be -- time for him to give up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was the quality of the negotiations, too. If I might add.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The quality of the negotiations here.

QUESTION: In what order and number were they released?

ARREDONDO: They were different. There was two come out, then one, then two, then one. He never had more than two come out at one time. And a couple of times he had one.

QUESTION: And the final?

ARREDONDO: The final one was the bank manager who came out with him -- right before him. Right before him.

QUESTION: Who is the bank manager?


QUESTION: Could you spell it please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have the last name spelling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it's N-e-t-h-e-r-l-y.




QUESTION: So the negotiators remained outside? Can you describe...

ARREDONDO: No, the negotiators were inside the Pizza Hut. That's where our negotiating -- that's where our command post was set up.

QUESTION: Talking to him by a...?

ARREDONDO: By phone. By phone.

QUESTION: To the bank manager, or to him directly.

ARREDONDO: To -- trying to talk to him. At the beginning was the bank manager. He would only let the bank manager talk to us, then he started talking to us.

QUESTION: What did he say? What were the conversations? Can you just characterize any of that?

ARREDONDO: At the beginning it was just talk, and at the end it was about giving up.

QUESTION: And what made him turn the corner?

ARREDONDO: I think it was the negotiating. The negotiating. The people talking to him, their making him understand that this is not as bad as he thinks it is, and it's going to be a lot worse.

QUESTION: So, the motive wasn't money? I mean he sounded like he had some tax problems, or the IRS, (OFF-MIKE). Did he say anything to them, did he say anything to any of you that you could add about the motive? (OFF-MIKE)

ARREDONDO: We will have Bob Reilley from the FBI talk about that.

QUESTION: OK. And could you spell Reilley please?

BOB REILLEY, FBI: It's R-e-i-l-l-e-y.

QUESTION: Can you spell it again please.

REILLEY: R-e-i-l-l-e-y.

QUESTION: So, tell us -- can you step up to the microphone? REILLEY: Sure. As far as we know, and the investigation is still continuing as both chiefs have pointed out. Once he entered the bank, and shortly thereafter the negotiations with the team of the negotiators began. He made some demands, and those demands were basically for food and cigarettes.

And we certainly believed that he had some sort of a personal problem here, the investigation is going to hopefully determine what exactly that was. But I think, as has been pointed out with the quality of the negotiations, with the good work that the bank manager did in keeping calm throughout the ordeal, the other bank employees that were released had ended peacefully and successfully without anyone being injured, and basically the man surrendered himself.

QUESTION: What indication did he give you as to what type of personal problems he had?

REILLEY: I would rather not say at this point, other than we do than he had some personal and maybe financial problems. That's all we know at this point.

QUESTION: Did he ever point a gun at someone's head? Did he ever have them turn around or keep them in the same room? Where were they...

REILLEY: Not that we know of, but I think at the same time you have to keep in mind that he certainly -- he entered the bank, he had what we believe, or understand, to be a sawed-off shotgun. He wanted to make sure that the police had been notified. He wanted to make sure that the bank alarm had been activated, and he wanted to make sure that the media had been advised. So, for all intent and purposes, certainly the employees of the bank were in fear of life, and perhaps the fact -- felt for certain that a bank robbery was going to be committed.

As it turned out, the quality, again, of the negotiations and in providing him food, he in turn safely and in a staged manner released the hostages, and in turn surrendered himself without incident.

QUESTION: Did he ever make the attempt to rob the bank?

REILLEY: I don't know.

QUESTION: Did he make the attempt to rob the bank, or did he just want to take the people hostage?

REILLEY: Our understanding is, again, he came into the bank and he was armed with a shotgun at that time. He put the shotgun down. He brought all of the bank employees together, and basically said that he was interested in food and cigarettes. And it was shortly thereafter, if I am not mistaken, that the hostage negotiators began their dialogue with them.

The quality of the hostage negotiation that was conducted by the principle Lake County hostage negotiator was outstanding. Kept him calm, kept everybody in the bank calm, and again, we can't say enough about just the bravery and just the calmness of the bank employees.

QUESTION: Did he ever discharge his weapon?

REILLEY: No, sir, did not discharge his weapon.

QUESTION: Did anybody in the bank know him, considering he was a local person?

REILLEY: Not that we know of.

QUESTION: Has he had any dealings with the local authorities?

REILLEY: Not that the we know of at this point in time?


QUESTION: The local police didn't know him?

ARREDONDO: Yes. I mean, some officers knew of him that live in this area.

QUESTION: Were all of the hostages bank employees, and no customers?

REILLEY: That's correct. They all were. That's correct.

QUESTION: Does he have a criminal background?

REILLEY: That's what they are just asking right now.

QUESTION: Mr. Reilley, we want to talk about your hostage negotiator, what a good job he did.

REILLEY: It was the team effort, it was a team effort. You had the Lake County hostage negotiating team, the FBI, as well as the Lowell police were there as well. And the first and the most important thing in any sort of hostage negotiation is to maintain a rapport with the individual involved. To keep him or her calm, and to ensure that no innocent people are injured, and in this case it was a beautiful job. And as Chief Arredondo pointed out, it just shows you the value of working together, and bringing together our resources.

QUESTION: So why this bank? Did he have an account there? I mean (OFF-MIKE)

REILLEY: Well, you have to keep in mind, the investigation started a couple of hours ago, and that's certainly something that we're going to look into.

QUESTION: Where is he now?

REILLEY: He's been taken into custody by Lake County authorities. Lake County is reviewing charges, I believe. And we have presented our case to the U.S. attorney here in the northern district of Indiana.

WATERS: OK. We have got a busted satellite feed from Lowell, Indiana.

Basically, we have the essence of the story. You just heard the man from the FBI there, Bob Reilly, telling us that the man in the bank this morning in Lowell, Indiana, had a sawed-off shotgun and had personal and perhaps financial problems.

He entered the bank, told the bank people to call police immediate, that we would be here a while. He laid down his sawed-off shotgun, began talking with negotiators. A number of hostages released. There were reports of up to 20 being held at one time.

And then, a little more than four hours into it, the bank manager emerged with the suspect, who's been described as about 40 years of age. His name is David Potchen. He's now in police custody and has even more personal problems today.



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