By Mike Shadwick
RINGGOLD, Ga. -- A "suspicious device" left Friday at the Capital Bank here by a robber turned out to be fake, authorities said, but the robbery and chase up Interstate 75 were real.
So far, William Charles Allen of Florida is facing only charges of bank robbery, according to Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Detective Patrick Mason.
"He has been cooperative with the investigation thus far," Detective Mason said.
But the charges could change depending on what the Georgia Bureau of Investigation finds out about the device, Detective Mason said.
Around 9 a.m. Friday, a man dressed in a button-up shirt, slacks and a knitted cap strolled into the Capital Bank and slid a note to one of the tellers, police said.
He walked out with about $10,000 and led members of the Ringgold Police Department, the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office and the Georgia State Patrol on a chase up I-75. The pursuit ended when a state trooper forced the driver to crash his white van near the Tennessee state line.
"I wanted to get him off the road before he endangered any other lives," said Senior Trooper E. Tommy Bonaparte.
Neither Mr. Allen or any police involved in the chase were injured, he said.
But the robber left behind what Ringgold Police Chief Charles Land called a "suspicious device taped to a cell phone."
Bank customers and employees quickly were escorted from the building. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was contacted and dispatched its bomb disposal unit to the scene.
Bomb technicians used a radio-controlled Andros robot, originally designed for use within nuclear reactors, to remove the device from the bank, according to police.
Once the robot was sent inside the building, police blocked the intersection of U.S. Highway 41 and Georgia Highway 2A, keeping people at least 300 feet away.
The bomb squad members took the device to the rear of the bank in the most secluded portion of the property and set off a small explosion to destroy it, authorities said.
Pieces recovered from the device are being further analyzed by the GBI, but according to sheriff's Detective Freddie Roden, it doesn't appear to have been a real bomb.
Detective Mason wouldn't say whether Mr. Allen made any threats about the device inside the bank.
"We just wanted to make sure we did everything we could to keep people safe," the detective said.
Mike Shadwick is based in Catoosa County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.