A suspected armed bank robber was arrested Tuesday afternoon following a cross-country chase, less than three hours after he allegedly held up First Midwest Bank of Centerville.
The arrest following a tense afternoon that included a school lockdown, a town blockade, the use of bloodhounds, the theft of a getaway vehicle and authorities� using a plane to pursue the suspect.
In the end, 32-year-old Jeremy Bullock of Inwood, Iowa, inexplicably stopped his car on U.S. Highway 18 west of Turkey Ridge, fled on foot and was captured by authorities in a field.
Bullock remains in the Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls and faces federal bank robbery charges, according to Turner County Sheriff Byron Nogelmeier.
�The last bank robbery (in Turner County) was in Parker, the Home Federal, about seven or eight years ago,� he said. �They were telling me down there that the last bank robbery in Centerville was 80 years ago.�
Tuesday�s situation could have turned out much worse, Nogelmeier told the Press & Dakotan.
�Anytime you get a suspect that has a gun � boy, I tell you what, anything could happen,� he said. �We were fortunate that everybody is going home (safe) tonight, and the suspect is in custody and in jail � and he is safe also, so we are thankful for that.�
The operation involved five law enforcement agencies, including the South Dakota Highway Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the state Division of Criminal Investigation, the Turner County Sheriff�s Office and the Centerville Police Department.
Authorities received a call about the robbery around 1 p.m., Nogelmeier said. An individual was displaying a handgun and demanding money from the teller. The staff cooperated, and the robber fled on foot where he was noticed by bystanders.
�He did some things that brought him to their attention,� the sheriff said. �The (Centerville) chief of police was informed by the citizens of the suspect�s direction of travel.�
The suspect didn�t make it back to his getaway vehicle, and the authorities pursued him as he fled on foot. The suspect left footprints in the snow, and the DCI provided a bloodhound to track the alleged robber.
Meanwhile, South Dakota Highway Patrol troopers set up roadblocks and sealed the town. Troopers stopped incoming and outgoing traffic at checkpoints.
The public provided valuable leads, and the suspect tried to elude one of the roadblocks, said Cpt. Kevin Joffer with the Highway Patrol.
�One of the officers in the northwest corner of town had a brief encounter with the individual,� Joffer said. �He could see (the suspect�s) physical appearance matched the description. The suspect took off.�
A minute later, the authorities received a call of a stolen pickup from Siouxland Propane in Centerville, which was considered the getaway vehicle. A South Dakota Highway Patrol airplane, stationed in Mitchell, was brought to Centerville and used in the pursuit of the suspect as he headed out of town.
�The airplane was instrumental in following (the suspect) all the time,� Joffer said.
Bullock was pursued to a spot a mile west of Turkey Ridge on U.S. Highway 18, where he stopped his vehicle in the middle of his lane.
�He took off on foot, jumped the fence, and the troopers and deputies gave chase (and) he was apprehended in the field,� Nogelmeier said.
The sheriff had no explanation for the suspect�s decision to ditch his vehicle and flee on foot. Bullock offered no resistance, and the gun and at least some of the cash was found in the pickup.
During the course of the afternoon, the pursuit included Nogelmeier and three deputies, the Centerville police and 10 highway troopers.
Nogelmeier was grateful for the public�s assistance.
�It was very helpful to have citizens watch and see what happened. They passed information to law enforcement,� he said. �A lot of times, citizens don�t want to get involved. We were very fortunate that they did want to get involved, and it sure aided us in the apprehension of this guy.�
�As with anything, information was powerful,� Joffer added.
The apprehension of the suspect also ended a tense afternoon for the Centerville school staff and students.
The school had been notified of the robbery shortly after it occurred and remained in lockdown during the afternoon, said Superintendent Doug Voss.
School officials made intercom announcements, searched the building and grounds, then locked students into rooms. Staff remained in the hallway as needed, and parents were alerted by e-mail and phone calls.
The school enrolls about 250 students, and Voss was grateful they are all housed under one roof.
�I�m not sure what it would have been like if our students were in separate buildings,� he said.
School officials continued informing parents of the situation, including the possibility that students would remain locked down after the normal release time. However, the lockdown was lifted and students left for home and after-school activities.
�I went from room to room to tell (students) that they were safe. The kids handled this well. They have done this drill before, but never anything like this. We kept things as normal as possible,� Voss said.
�The adrenaline kicked in, and I have to commend the kids and teachers. They handled it very well. I heard some of the teachers talking to the little kids, and (the teachers) were very good with them.�
Voss said he won�t have trouble remembering the date of the lockdown.
�This was my 65th birthday,� he said. �In 44 years (of education), I have never had anything like this happen before. Thankfully, it turned out good.�