This suspect escaped north of downtown Plainwell after robbing the PNC Bank, threatening that he had a bomb in a backpack.Michigan State Police Bomb Squad prepares to enter the building. (Photo by Nicklas Grifhorst)

Plainwell's PNC Bank robbed; bomb threat found to be false

Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

UPDATE: Police arrested the suspect overnight; read more details here.


Here is our initial story from Thursday evening:

A man claiming to have a bomb robbed PNC Bank in downtown Plainwell Thursday, June 14, morning and escaped on foot north of the city.

People were evacuated from businesses and road blocks were set up around town.

While there was no bomb, Plainwell Public Safety director Bill Bomar encouraged residents in the city to be extra cautious, according to a video posted by Mlive later that afternoon.

“We’ve reopened all the streets,” Bomar said. “I would ask that the people in the City of Plainwell be extra cautious and keep their doors locked and call us if anybody comes at the door suspicious.”

Bomar said that while the suspect has not yet been captured, pictures disseminated from video surveillance helped them quickly identify a possible suspect.

“The suspect has relatives who live in the area,” he said. “They said... they thought he was homeless and that he was also suicidal.

“He was not armed at the bank other than what we suspected in the backpack.

“We don’t consider him armed at this point.”

 The Michigan State Police Bomb Squad found only clothing in a backpack the man left at the scene.

Bomar said the suspect was a white male in his 40s or 50s, last seen wearing a canvas fishing hat, a royal blue pullover shirt and khakis.

Traffic to downtown Plainwell was shut down and businesses evacuated after the robber left a bag suspected of containing a bomb.

Traffic through Plainwell became such a snarled mess around lunchtime, local business owner Paul Warnement pulled on a bright orange jumpsuit and started directing traffic at Bridge and Park streets, one of the areas where traffic was being rerouted from downtown. Similar scenarios played out around the other three rerouted intersections to town.

PNC Bank fronts Main Street and backs up to a parking lot at M-89, across the road from Hicks Park.

A Michigan State Police bomb technician could be seen suiting up in that parking lot and entering the building. A containment transport vehicle and robot were staged in the parking lot.

After it was determined there was no threat of explosives, people were allowed to return to businesses and most streets were opened about 1:30 p.m.

Among the evacuees was Sharon Vangemert who owns the Old Plank Road Restaurant. She said witnesses were taken to the Plainwell Public Safety office where evidence was being centralized.

“The bank people said they were robbed and a bag was dropped with someone saying it was a bomb,” she said. “The rumor is they escaped in kayaks.”

Sheriff’s deputies were looking for something near the river and were taking pictures downstream from Hicks Park. Canine units were called in for a ground search.

As of 5 p.m., the robber or robbers were still on the loose.

Thirty-year Plainwell resident William Welch said he lives on Allegan Street and it was the first time he could get out of his driveway without waiting for traffic. He was videotaping the bomb squad as they entered PNC.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in Plainwell,” he said. “There’s been a few gas station robberies, I don’t know about bank robberies, but I’ve never seen the bomb squad.”

Plainwell public safety asks anyone who recognizes this person to call (269) 685-9858.

Editor Ryan Lewis contributed to this report.



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