RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Four robbers stormed into a Columbia bank Friday morning with guns blazing and, by the end of the day, one was dead and three others were in jail.
A police chase, a shootout and an intense manhunt by three law enforcement agencies followed the robbery at the Wells Fargo bank at Two Notch and Parklane roads, creating a scene more like a Hollywood movie than a typical robbery in Columbia. Three Richland 2 schools were put on lockdown as armed police and tracking dogs searched woods along S.C. 277 and neighborhoods surrounding the bank. A helicopter, an airplane and a surveillance drone flew in circles.
Sheriff Leon Lott and Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott said it was good fortune that led police officers, bank employees and customers to emerge from the scene unhurt.
This was a very dangerous situation, Lott said.
The name of the robber killed by police was not released, pending notification of his family.
The sheriffs department charged three other suspects with armed robbery, three counts of attempted murder and 15 counts of kidnapping. They are 26-year-old Ozzie Carreker, 22-year-old Rashad Hall and 21-year-old Naim Stroman, all from Richland County, Lott said.
The robbers burst through the Wells Fargo front door at 10:05 a.m. and immediately began firing machine guns and semi-automatic pistols, police and witnesses said. The robbers wore masks and hoodies over their faces, Lott said.
The Rev. Ray Davis of Spartanburg was in town to visit family and had escorted his mother-in-law, Patricia Kelly, into the bank just ahead of the robbers.
As soon as we got in the door, we heard pop, pop, pop, Davis said as he described the gunshots.
The robbers jumped onto counters and threatened to shoot anyone who looked their way. The robbers fired their weapons into glass windows, into the ceiling and at the floor, Davis said.
Bank customers, including a pregnant woman, were forced to lie on the floor as the robbers ordered the manager and an assistant into the vault.
Dana Chisolm, 47, said she dove behind a counter and covered her face as one of the robbers stood over her.
He was straddled over me as he was shouting to the tellers, Chisolm said. The gun was hanging over my head.
They were telling everyone to keep their heads down. They said if we didnt, we were going to die.
It appeared that one robber was the ring leader as he shouted instructions to the other three, Davis said.
The one guy said to the others, If you dont get the money, Im going to kill everybody in here, Davis said. Thats when the girls started crying.
A Richland County Sheriffs deputy arrived at the bank within seconds of the alarm being sounded, Lott said. A Columbia Police officer who had seen the deputy driving fast with his blue lights on had followed the deputy into the parking lot.
The officers reported that they could hear gunshots inside the bank.
The robbers then fled the bank, carrying bags of money and firing their guns, including at the police officers, Lott said.
The deputy and the police officer chased the robbers for about 1.5 miles as they drove down Parklane Road and then turned left into the Newcastle neighborhood.
As our officers were chasing them, they were hanging out of the car and shooting at the police, Lott said.
The robbers ditched their Ford Explorer in the 7300 block of Highview Drive and took off on foot. The robbers began shedding clothes, leaving their hoodies in bushes, Lott said.
Three Richland County sheriffs investigators and an off-duty Columbia K9 officer who had joined the hunt cornered two suspects in the backyard of a home on Parkingson Street. The backyard butted against S.C. 277.
They had nowhere to go, Lott said.
One suspect surrendered, Lott said, but the other refused to give up. The officers surrounded him.
He was walking backwards away from them, Lott said. He made the statement, Im going to kill you.
As the suspect reached his hand into his pocket, sheriffs investigator Kerry Johnson and CPD K9 Officer Steve White fired.
The suspect, who was armed, appeared to have one bullet wound, Lott said. He died at the scene.
An intense manhunt continued for the other two suspects.
One was found walking down I-20, and the other was found walking near an apartment complex on Brighton Hill Road, Lott said.
Both were in custody by 3 p.m.
You could tell by how they were cut up that they had been running, Lott said.
Police recovered the banks money, Lott said. It was not known late Friday how much was stolen.
The three suspects in custody have criminal histories, and Lott said one had removed an electronic monitoring bracelet Friday morning before the robbery.
Carreker previously had been arrested on assault, gun and drug charges. Hall was charged in 2011 with armed robbery, kidnapping and assaulting a police officer. Stroman had been arrested on misdemeanors, according to State Law Enforcement Division records.
Back at the bank, victims families who had heard about the robbery gathered in the parking lot. Victims trickled out one by one as they finished giving statements to investigators.
Chisolm wiped tears as her daughter, who was holding a baby, hugged her.
Im thanking God that Im alive to see my children again, she said.
Harolyn Davis, the pastors wife, had been waiting in the car in the bank parking lot when she heard the gunshots. She waited in fear, wondering what was happening to her husband and mother inside. She called her daughter, who later arrived with other family members in tow.
When the pastor and his mother-in-law walked out of the bullet-riddled door of the bank, their family ran across the parking lot to gather them in a long embrace.
Im still here, Ray Davis said. The Lord is good.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.