Attempted Bank Heist By Bomb Threat

By Christina Davidson

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My peaceful and productive morning of writing in a Joplin, Missouri Starbuck's was interrupted by an outside swarm of police, SWAT, and FBI. A little before noon local time, a man desperate for cash had walked into a US Bank across the street and announced that if the tellers didn't give him money, he would detonate a bomb he had placed on the roof.

The area is still in lockdown as police conduct a sweep for explosives, but the man has been taken into custody. Corporal Niesse from the Joplin police department told me the bank employees and customers had escaped from the bank almost immediately, but the man remained inside. Niesse said Joplin had a similar incident a few years ago, and in that case an explosive device the would-be bank robber brandished turned out to be a fake.

Police have been looking for over an hour now and have yet to find a bomb, so it appears the man never posed a real threat to public safety. I don't know his name, or his motivation for trying to knock over a bank, but you can see from my picture of him being taken into custody that he doesn't look like a hardened criminal. And the clumsiness of the attempt makes me think he is either crazy, stupid, or suicidal.

I'm trying to find out more about the would-be bank robber/bomber and will post an update if I learn his desperation sprung from being laid off or other financial hardship caused by the recession.

Update: The man in custody is 71-year-old Billy L. Appier from Cherokee, Kansas. The Joplin police report that he entered the bank wearing a straw hat and sunglasses. 

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2009/07/attempted-bank-heist-by-bomb-threat/22377/