FBI says bank robbery suspects are "bold and dangerous"

FBI says bank robbery suspects are "bold and dangerous"

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The vehicle the suspects left in. The vehicle the suspects left in.
A surveillance image of one of the suspects. A surveillance image of one of the suspects.
One of the suspects leaving the bank. One of the suspects leaving the bank.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) - Authorities are still on the lookout for two brazen robbers who held up a Cocke County bank and disarmed a responding police officer at gunpoint.  

The robbery happened Wednesday afternoon at the Tennessee State Bank on Epley Road in Newport.  

FBI agents say nobody has spotted these suspects since they fled the scene. A witness saw them leave on I-40 toward North Carolina.  

Authorities said these men are highly dangerous, considering how they carried out the robbery.

Armed with assault rifle with a 30-round clip, the two suspects robbed the Tennessee State Bank in a fashion authorities don't often see.

 "This is more of the old-style, western rob the whole bank robbery. Most of the time, a robber comes in and fronts the teller and either hands them a note and says something to the effect of 'I got a gun' or 'Give me money, or I'll do something.'  These people actually came in and robbed the whole bank," said Capt. Maurice Shults of Newport Police Department.  

In newly released pictures, both suspects are seen fleeing. The suspect with the rifle was believed to watch over the employees as the suspect wearing a hoodie obtained the money.

"I think they're experienced and pulled at least one robbery in the past. They knew what they were there for and knew how to handle themselves and knew what exactly to do," Shults said.

"It is uncommon to see long guns used in bank robbery," said FBI Special Agent Stone.  

The last time the Knoxville field office investigated a robbery involving an assault rifle was in Cocke County in September 2010.

FBI Special Agent Marshal Stone says the local Knoxville field office hasn't investigated a multiple-person bank robbery in more than a year. The office handles between an estimated 20-60 bank robberies investigations each year.

"These guys are very bold. We see their pictures in their surveillance photo confronting law enforcement. It makes these guys dangerous," Stone said.  

The confrontation took place in the parking lot. The responding officer was held at gunpoint  after backing out of the bank.  

"It was a battle he could not win. Had he tried to initiate a gun battle, they had 30 rounds and a high-powered rifle that could have shot through the car easily," Shults said.  

Newport Police Chief Maurice Shults defends his officer, even though he could rightfully have opened fire.

Shults said since the officer surrendered his gun, he may have saved lives and avoided a hostage situation.

"At the end of the day, he offered his life so he could protect those citizens and tellers in the bank. We can second guess until the end, until we have that gun stuck in our face, we don't know what we'll do," Shults said.  

The FBI says the suspect with the hat is between 5'10'' and 6' tall and in his mid 30s with a slender build. He was wearing a dark long sleeve shirt, dark pants, gloves, hat and armed with a black rifle.  

The suspect wearing the hoodie is 5'8'' and in his mid-20s with a medium build. He was seen wearing a dark hoodie, pants, gray gloves and dark hat.  

The getaway car is described as a small silver SUV, possibly a Chevy Traverse or GMC Arcadia.

Anyone with information about the robbery or the suspects should call the Knoxville FBI office at 865-544-0751.

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