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July 3, 2008 Issue

Masked gunman robs bank
U.S. flags donated, mounted in Louisville
Wandering bear visits Gibson

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Masked gunman robs bank

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A man suspected in the armed robbery of the Regions Bank in Louisville Thursday, June 26, was arrested in Waynesboro Tuesday.

The suspect, identified as Christopher Michael Walker, 27, of Waynesboro is also thought to be the man who committed an armed robbery Monday night at Quick Cash Payday Loans in North Augusta, S.C.

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Around noon Tuesday, Waynesboro Police Department Chief Investigator Gene Boseman spotted Walker and his girlfriend Georgeann Marie Nixon in a white Ford Explorer near a store on West 6th Street in Waynesboro.

Boseman had been looking for Nixon that morning for two reasons. A relative of Nixon’s who was worried about Nixon’s welfare had called Boseman. The officer also had a warrant for Nixon.

Boseman pulled over the white Ford Explorer SUV in which they were riding. He had heard about the armed robberies on the radio that morning on his way to work, he said.

In both cases, witnesses reported a white SUV as the getaway car. Witnesses had also reported a woman had been the driver and the gunman had “Chris” tattooed on his arm.

Boseman said he spotted that tattoo on Walker along with $1,000 in cash and a small amount of crack cocaine. Nixon had $400 in cash.

Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as well as officers from Aiken and Jefferson counties and Louisville arrived in Waynesboro to process the vehicle and interview the suspects.

A Halloween mask was found in the back of the Explorer and a bank wrapper from the Louisville Regions Bank was found under the seat.

Clothes that match those reportedly worn by the robber in the North Augusta robbery were also found.

Officers discovered a receipt for a T-shirt purchased from a store located next to the North Augusta crime scene.

An investigator with the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office said he plans to arrest Walker for armed robbery and on two weapons charges. Charges against Nixon from that office are pending.

A witness to the Aiken County robbery reported the robber used a crutch and Walker was found in possession of one.

The armed robbery at the bank in Louisville is thought to be the first one, according to Louisville Police Chief Jimmy Miller.

“To my knowledge this is the first one that I know about,” Miller said of the bank robbery.

“I’ve never heard of one (a bank robbery in Louisville) and it’s never happened since I’ve been working here,” he said. Miller said he has been with the police department for 24 years.

Last week a witness reported seeing a black man approaching the entrance to the Regions Bank on Louisville’s Peachtree Street put on a Halloween type mask, pull out a handgun and enter the bank.

He called 911 as soon as the man pulled the mask over his head, he said.

The robber was given an undisclosed amount of cash and fled the bank, according to a JCSO spokesman.

Several agencies, including the FBI, have been involved in the investigation.

“The FBI has to be called on all bank robberies,” the spokesman said.

“It’s federally insured money and a federal crime to rob a FDIC bank. However, the U.S. Attorney can decide to let it be prosecuted by the state if they wish,” he said.

According to John Bankhead, a spokesman with the GBI, the robber dropped money as he exited Regions Bank. He was seen getting into a white SUV, reported to have been an Expedition or Explorer.

Bankhead said the vehicle was apparently on Walnut Street waiting for the robber.

He was seen getting into the passenger side of the SUV before it left the scene.

The robber did not fire his weapon in the bank and no one was injured or hurt, according to the sheriff’s spokesman.

A Regions customer who was waiting in the parking lot saw the robber as he approached the bank’s entrance.

“I look over here,” he said, pointing to spot on the sidewalk near the bank’s entrance, “and I see a black male, in his 20s, about 6 feet tall. Tall and skinny. I saw him put a ‘Scream’ mask on.

“It could have been a skull,” he said of the design. “It was a Halloween-type horror mask.”

The witness said he saw the man pull out a handgun. He said he had started calling 911 as soon as he saw the man put on the mask.

“I don’t think he saw me,” the witness said, adding he thought the man was looking at two other people standing on the bank’s sidewalk.

It was as the robber exited the bank and was headed toward the white SUV that he dropped some of the money, which he was carrying loose in his hands.

The robbery in Aiken County occurred about 6 p.m. Monday at the Quick Cash Payday Loans on Jefferson Davis Highway.

The robber reportedly wore a skull mask and was armed with a handgun. Another armed robbery occurred earlier in the day at another payday loan business in Aiken.

As of press time Tuesday, law enforcement was still trying to determine if these crimes are connected.

Jefferson County had not charged Walker Tuesday night, according to a JCSO spokesman.

“(We’ll) probably be charging him tomorrow with the robbery and firearm charges,” the spokesman said, adding he had been charged in Waynesboro regarding the drugs found on his person. He is going to be charged in South Carolina with an armed robbery that occurred last night (Monday),” he said. “We’ve got enough to hold him...The girl that was with him was arrested for some outstanding charges in Burke County,” he said.

“They were our suspects in this. We’ll be making a decision tonight whether he’ll face state charges or federal charges. If he faces state charges, he’ll be charged tomorrow (Wednesday) or the FBI will be charging him tomorrow if they take the case,” the spokesman said.

“We recovered some evidence that links directly to the Regions Bank robbery and feel confident this is our man,” he said.



U.S. flags donated, mounted in Louisville

By Jessica Newberry
Staff Writer

As residents prepare for picnics and fireworks, the city of Louisville has been dressing its downtown in red, white and blue. Just in time for the Fourth of July, 20 American flags are flying outside downtown businesses.

When Memorial Day came and went with hardly any decoration downtown, Margaret Newberry of the Broad Street Business Partners saw a need for change.

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“There was nothing, no patriotic theme, no flags,” Newberry said. “There were several holidays coming up including Flag Day and the Fourth of July, so I thought it would be great to fly flags outside the downtown businesses.”

Newberry suggested the idea to Mayor Rita Culvern as a way to “show downtown’s patriotism,” and the plan was in the works.

“I loved the idea and immediately called Randall Jones, a Woodmen of the World (WOW) agent, and asked if they would sponsor the flags for the project,” Culvern said.

WOW agreed to donate 20 3-by-5 American flags, and the city of Louisville provided the wall brackets.

“At that point, I contacted every shop owner with a building downtown and was able to reach all but one,” said Culvern. “They thought it was a great idea and eagerly gave permission to install the wall brackets.”

City employees installed the brackets last week with direction from the mayor and shop owners about where they were placed.

“Everyone got into the act,” Culvern said, “but Mr. Ken Hildebrant and his staff were patient with us and eventually a consensus was reached.”

Culvern hung the first flag on the Firehouse Gallery on Mulberry Street on Monday, June 30. The remaining flags will decorate businesses on both sides of Broad Street.

“Twenty is a wonderful start, but I feel like we’re going to want to add to it,” Newberry said. “We’ll just have to look at it and see.”

The city will be responsible for putting the flags up for patriotic holidays and storing them when they are not in use.

“We want to honor our forefathers who fought so valiantly for our freedom and the men and women who have served us in the past and those who serve us today to keep us safe and enjoying that freedom,” said Culvern. “Hopefully everyone will have a blessed holiday, and we will remember what a wonderful country we live in and wish her a happy birthday.”



Wandering bear visits Gibson

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Glascock County residents had a furry visitor in their neighborhoods over the weekend when a black bear shuffled its way across the county.

Department of Natural Resources Ranger Brian Adams said that the first sighting of the bear was reported Friday evening off Highway 102 West. Later it was seen eating fallen wild plums.

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“Eight people saw it over the weekend,” Adams said, including Glascock County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeremy Kelley.

Kelley said he responded to a call Saturday morning when a Project Street resident of Gibson reported that a bear was in her backyard around her trashcans.

“After speaking with the caller I went out and walked the property line,” Kelley said. “That’s when I saw it on a path headed towards town. It was probably four or four-and-a-half feet tall while walking on all fours. I mean, it was a full-grown bear.”

Kelley said he then got in his vehicle and drove down to the area where the path would let out to warn any residents away from the area.

“We got another call that the bear was in someone else’s backyard and appeared to have turned around and started heading back towards Mitchell,” Kelley said. “I never did see it again.”

While it is not uncommon to see bears during this time of year, it certainly shocked some of the area residents.

Adams explained that the male bears are run out of an area south of Macon by the more dominant males. These bears cross through Georgia in search of a mate.

“Then after the season, they will all make it right back home and live happily ever after until the next breeding season,” Adams said.

Adams did warn that citizens should not approach the bears or follow them.

“They are just as scared of you as you are of them,” he said. “They were here first, we are just in the way, so leave it alone. Don’t chase it, follow it or shoot it.”

Adams added that endangering one of the bears or killing it is illegal.

“Everyone needs to know that if they see a bear, just leave it alone,” Kelley said. “Especially if they come into town. Once they realize there is nothing to eat there and there are no other bears around, they are going to move on.”

Glascock County is not the only Georgia county to see the creatures, Warren and McDuffie counties have both had encounters with bears, including one that made it across the Savannah River into South Carolina.

A Wrens dispatcher said Monday morning that a resident of Stapleton reported seeing a bear cross the highway outside of town in the last week and Kelley said that Thomson had a bear on Martin Luther King Street three or four weeks ago.




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