FBI agent enters East Chicago branch of First Merchants Bank following an armed robbery Saturday. | Mike Nolan/Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 1, 2014 7:21AM
EAST CHICAGO — A man and woman who robbed an East Chicago bank at gunpoint Saturday morning fired multiple shots at police twice as they fled the scene in their SUV.
East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker said police began pursuit of the couple who robbed First Merchants Bank, 4740 Indianapolis Blvd., thanks to a witness who followed the pair out of the bank.
“Initially they started running and then they were walking very quickly down 148th toward Baring,” Becker said.
The witness was relaying the information to 911 as he followed them down the street. As the first officer was arriving, the witness pointed out the vehicle and the officer began the pursuit.
The couple headed south on Baring Avenue in what police believe may have been a dark blue Suburban to the 4800 block when the passenger got out, turned and began firing at the officer. That officer pulled over and the suspect got back in the SUV, which continued south on Baring for another two blocks to 150th Street.
A second squad car took the lead in the pursuit, police said, until the passenger leaned out of the SUV and began shooting at the squad car.
“I have 32 years with the FBI. This is very unusual,” Becker said. “The robbery, first of all, was armed and then to have shots fired makes it elevated. But to stop the vehicle and get out like you want to engage the police, that is very brazen, very unusual. I have never heard of that in my 32 years.”
Becker said police lost sight of the vehicle as it entered Hammond near 149th and Walnut streets. Police recovered shell casings from what appeared to be an automatic weapon at both sites. Becker said he saw four to five casings on a quick glance at the 4800 Baring Ave. crime scene but there were likely more.
No one was injured in the exchange. Becker said officers did not return fire because the chase took place in a residential neighborhood.
“There was no safe way to return fire. The whole backdrop would have been houses,” Becker said.
The chase began shortly after the couple entered First Merchants Bank around 11 a.m. The male suspect jumped the counter to the tellers cage while the female suspect ordered customers and workers to the floor.
Becker said more than 10 people were inside the bank. Exact numbers of customers and employees were not immediately known.
“It’s a very busy bank,” he said.
Both suspects were described as being between 25 and 30 years old. They were wearing hoodies and their faces were covered with scarves. The female suspect was wearing a red hoodie with a multicolor scarf with flowers on it. The male was wearing a dark, possibly gray, hoodie with a light-colored striped scarf. One suspect was wearing blue jeans but witnesses were not sure which one. The vehicle is believed to have Illinois license plates.
Becker said the FBI is taking over the investigation. Officials are working with the bank to secure security video. Police also have canvassed the neighborhood and may have located some additional security cameras and are working to obtain the footage.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the city’s anonymous tip hotline at (219) 391-8500.