Another area bank robbed as year ends

Emily Dalnodar

A record-breaking year for Twin Cities area bank robberies came down to the wire as two men pulled off a heist in Dinkytown on New Year’s Eve.
On Wednesday morning at approximately 9:30 a.m., two black males, described to be in their 20s, allegedly robbed the TCF National Bank at 1501 University Ave. S.E.
One of the men, carrying a large black semi-automatic pistol, jumped the teller counter as the other stood guard. The armed man put in his jacket pocket an undisclosed amount of money, which also included a red dye pack that authorities say may or may not have activated. Witnesses who saw the men flee from the scene, however, reported seeing a red splotch on the man’s jacket.
No one was physically assaulted, and no injuries were reported. The robbers were last seen walking south on University Avenue.
Colleen Rowley, an FBI office spokeswoman, said there are currently no suspects but the FBI is following up on leads.
It marks the second University area bank robbery since November. It also upped the Twin Cities bank robbery total to a record 85 in 1997. On November 10, the University-Midway branch of Norwest Bank on University Ave. was allegedly held up by a black male.
The 5-foot-7-inch tall man in that robbery was described to have a husky build and reportedly used a black semi-automatic pistol. In Wednesday’s incident, one of the alleged robbers was described as a 5-foot-8-inch tall man, also said to have husky build. Authorities have not publicly drawn a connection between the two incidents.
“There have been a handful of robberies with two black males involved,” she said. “There are no strong conclusions that it’s the same pair.”

In other police news:

ù University Police found two men on the St. Paul campus with what was thought to be a gun in the glove compartment of the car they were in.
On Dec. 27 at 12:40 a.m., Officer Kris Tyra noticed a car in lot 104 with the motor running. She went over to the car because she found it unusual that there was anyone in the lot so late at night.
Eric Christian Knope, the driver, told Tyra that he was going to be attending the University next quarter and he and his friend, Jonathon Zaki Bakdash, who is a student at the University, were trying to find Bailey Hall because he wanted to see where his class would be.
Tyra informed Knope that Bailey Hall is a residential building, not a classroom building. At this point Knope became nervous and started to talk fast, according to Tyra’s report.
Bakdash later described what the pair was doing as, “Just driving around.”
At this point, Tyra asked to see the vehicle registration. Without being told, Bakdash opened the glove compartment where Tyra observed what she thought was a handgun. Bakdash then quickly closed the compartment, according to the report.
Tyra told the men to put their hands in the air and asked Bakdash to slowly hand her the gun. Bakdash contests that he was told to take that action. Tyra then reportedly told the men to get out of the car and called for back-up.
According to the report, Knope said the gun was a fake and he bought it to protect himself. He said he was the victim of an attempted carjacking and wanted the suspected gun in case it happened again. This was confirmed by Bakdash after the incident.
Upon closer inspection, officer Tyra observed that the gun was a starter pistol with blanks in the cylinder.
Bakdash said that Tyra initially did not examine the gun to see if it was real and that she just panicked.
Knope told the officers that he was going to school to become a police officer and that they should go easy on him because he is a “police wannabe,” according to Tyra’s report. When he realized this was not going to happen, he became very angry. He said this would mess up his chances of being a cop.
“We didn’t do anything, and the cops are trying to say we did,” Bakdash said.
Knope, who was unavailable for comment, was charged with carrying a gun in his motor vehicle without a permit. He was detained for 48 hours, released and has since gotten a lawyer. Bakdash was not detained nor arrested.

ù A disgruntled former employee allegedly walked into Sonia Rae Johnson’s office at 1501 University Ave. S.E. and threatened he would shoot her.
At approximately 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 29, the man reportedly came into Johnson’s office to explain why he shouldn’t have been fired. She told him that if he had a complaint he should put it in writing, according to a police report.
After being told by Johnson to leave, the man responded, “You don’t know who you’re messing with.” According to the report, he added, “I’ll be back to shoot you.”
The report did not identify the man, nor did it identify the specific office, which is located in the Dinkydome.