"Plaid shirt robber" said caughtA man suspected of robbing as many as 20 banks in the Midwest is in custody in Missouri, possibly giving closure to a 2007 bank heist in Mitchell that ended with the robber disappearing as police scoured for clues.
By: Korrie Wenzel, The Daily Republic, Worthington Daily Globe
A man suspected of robbing as many as 20 banks in the Midwest is in custody in Missouri, possibly giving closure to a 2007 bank heist in Mitchell that ended with the robber disappearing as police scoured for clues.
Joseph Young — believed to be 37 and from Rogersville, Mo. — was taken into custody in Springfield, Mo., Thursday morning. He is accused of being the “Plaid Shirt Robber,” as dubbed by the media for his clothing choice while robbing banks.
“It was a good degree of cooperation between various law enforcement agencies,” said Steve Pluta, a supervisory senior resident agent with the FBI, based in Sioux Falls. “This spanned several states, and not only our counterparts in the FBI, but other police departments and state agencies as well.”
Neither Pluta nor local police would specifically say Young is the suspect in the Mitchell case, but several published reports from Missouri list the heist at the Mitchell Wells Fargo Bank last year among the list of banks Young is accused of robbing. Pluta only would confirm that a suspect is in custody.
Pat Essig, community bank president at the Mitchell Wells Fargo Bank, said Friday morning that he had heard a suspect was in custody and hopes it’s the same man who walked out of his bank with an undisclosed amount of money last August.
“It was a traumatic experience for our staff,” said Essig. “I’m sure the tellers that were involved here are breathing a sigh of relief. I’m sure it took weeks or months for some (employees) to get back to normal. …”
It was shortly after noon on Aug. 14, 2007, when a man described at the time as “very low key” walked into the bank at 403 N. Lawler in Mitchell and demanded money. Although he did not show a weapon, he indicated that he had one, according to reports at the time.
Essig said the man who robbed Wells Fargo was “extremely calm.”
“I think it was obvious at the time he robbed us that he had done it before,” Essig said. “It wasn’t a new deal to him.”
After the suspect was given money, he calmly exited the bank’s east entrance and fled in a blue two-door car with Minnesota license plates.
The man was wearing jeans, a plaid shirt and a baseball cap. Earlier that week, a man fitting that description robbed a bank in Sioux Falls.
Surveillance cameras captured images not only of the robber but also of his car, which was parked in the Wells Fargo parking lot. But whereas police descended on the scene in a matter of moments and began scouring the region, the suspect was never found.
Pluta cautioned that investigations sometimes just need time to pan out.
“It’s not like television, where you can actually follow the case in an hour,” he said. “Realistically, if a person is highly mobile, and in this case, the suspect does not live in the area but travels to commit the crimes, it takes much longer. … Some cases go on for years.
“In this case, I think we got a good break and a lot of law enforcement agencies followed through on it.”
Lyndon Overweg, chief of public safety in Mitchell, also commended the communication between various agencies. Although the Mitchell Police Division was involved with the initial investigation, Overweg said the FBI was the primary investigative agency, which he said is routine with bank robberies.
“You always hope the actual crimes get solved. That’s the ultimate goal of any investigation,” Overweg said. “Some of these do and some don’t. On this one, there was a lot of good investigative work.”
Pluta said standard procedure is to put out bulletins to the media in the hours immediately after a bank robbery, hoping someone will recognize either the suspect or the vehicle. That measure was taken the day of the Mitchell robbery, but netted no results.
“Unfortunately, if you don’t get any tips coming in, that’s one thing — it doesn’t give you anywhere to go,” he said. “On the other hand, we do other techniques … and those techniques fell through.”