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Marine veteran helps catch Alaska bank robber

Jan. 20, 2013 - 04:24PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2013 - 04:24PM  |  
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska A 22-year-old man who just finished serving four years in the Marine Corps was able to track down an alleged bank robber and flag down a police cruiser, helping land the suspect in jail.

Merrill Lake was walking by a Key Bank Branch Wednesday when he first noticed a woman banging hysterically on the window. The bank had just been robbed by a hammer-wielding man,">The Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.

The FBI said the robber was 61-year-old Alan Bronson Rice.

Rice had been the only customer in the bank when a teller offered to help him at her window. He walked up and placed his bag on the floor. Then he removed the hammer and set it on the counter, the charges said.

"I need your money," Rice said, according to the charges. "Give me your 100s and your 50s. I'm going to hit you with this hammer. Hurry up!"

The teller handed Rice cash from her top drawer, including five $20 "bait bills," the charges said. Rice received $1,039.

When Rice left, the bank manager went to the window, and that's where Lake spotted her. Lake never heard the bank manager call for help. He read her lips.

"She was saying, ‘Stop him. Stop him,'" Lake said. "I just thought he's got to be stopped. I glanced over and said, ‘Sir, she's calling you.'"

Rice started jogging, he said. Lake ran after him, but didn't know if the man was carrying a weapon.

Rice asked Lake to follow him to the bus station, where he would explain everything. He had simply overdrawn on his bank account, Rice told him. At some point in the encounter, Rice asked Lake if he was making a citizen's arrest.

"I told him right then and there, ‘Sir, I'm a U.S. Marine. You need to turn around and go back to the bank,'" Lake said.

Rice didn't say anything for about 10 seconds, then, "I need to sit down."

Moments later, a police cruiser appeared. Police had been notified of the robbery. No physical altercation took place.

Police searched Rice, finding the tool and stolen cash, according to the charges. The teller later identified him as the man who robbed the bank.

Lake said he's going back to taking classes at the University of Alaska Anchorage and looking for a job. He's not sure what he wants to do, he said.

"I'm trying to take my background with the military, in whatever way possible, and utilize it with the real world," he said.

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