Robber Uses Live Explosive To Hold Up Colo. CU

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This time the bomb was real.

It was just another Friday morning until a man wearing a backpack walked into the Fitters Local 58 Federal Credit Union. The man took a device out of the backpack and placed it on the teller counter. He told the teller it was a bomb and demanded money.

Police say the man told the teller there was an accomplice outside who would detonate the device if their demands weren't met. After getting an undisclosed amount of money, the man told the teller to wait 15 minutes before calling the police and then fled the credit union.

In less than three minutes, the robber was gone. The bomb wasn't.

Fitters Local 58 staff called police who determined that the device was, in fact, a live bomb. The Colorado Springs Police bomb squad sent in a remotely controlled robot that disarmed the bomb with a water cannon.

Colorado Springs Major Crimes Sgt. Scott Whittington called the bomb a "crude, but real" powder device, with visible wires and flashing light attached to the side.

Fitters Local 58 is a small CU with 885 members and only $4 million in assets. With two employees out for the day, only two tellers were on duty and very busy with members. Fitters Local 58 manager Debi Sears said her staff had undergone robbery training and followed procedures "to a 'T.'" Sears said it was the credit union's first robbery in 10 years.

"I'm extremely proud of how our tellers handled it," Sears said. "Everything that should have been done, was done."

Sears said no one recognized the man and was sure he wasn't a member. Sears said with normal staffing, her employees might have been able to determine the man was a potential threat as he walked through the front doors. Sears recommended that credit unions, if possible, learn members by first name to aid in spotting a potential robber.

Sgt. Whittington said this robbery was unique for two reasons: the bomb was live and the man was older than average bank robbers, between 50 and 60 years old.

Whittington said it had been a full year since Colorado Springs Police Department had responded to a call about a bomb inside a financial institution.

The last call was a hoax and Whittington said he couldn't remember an actual live device being left behind.

Whittington said credit union staff should always follow instructions from any robber and treat any bomb threat as real.

While he said he didn't know of any specific preventative measures a credit union could take to deter someone with a bomb, Whittington did say he's seen too many cameras placed too high inside banks and credit unions. Robbers simply keep their heads down or wear a regular baseball cap to hide their face.

"We can identify a whole lot of caps," Whittington said.

Jim O'Dell is senior manager, protection risk management with CUNA Mutual Group and echoed Whittington's remark on not being able to prevent a robber from entering a facility with a bomb. Tellers should exercise the same precaution for any robbery situation, he stated.

O'Dell offered the following tips and reminders:

* It is very important to do as the robber instructs

* Try to make a mental note of the robber's appearance, including height, weight, color of eyes, hair and skin; accent or voice characteristics, tattoos or other unique marks

* If a robber has any type of package or bag and says it has a bomb, assume it's real

* Stay away from the device and never touch it. Let police take care of it.

Whittington said the robber would face federal charges that carry a minimum of 20 years in prison, among other potential charges.

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