ALTO, TX (KTRE) - A botched bank robbery attempt has landed four people behind bars, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office
The suspects, Channing Nicole Johnson,24, of Palestine, Evandreal Simpson, 19, Mujibur Shaw, 36, of Palestine, and Carl Kelly, 22, are charged in connection to an attempted bank robbery in Alto Wednesday afternoon.
According to the sheriff's office, witnesses said they saw a man walking up to the BancorpSouth bank wearing long-sleeve black sweats, carrying a bag in one hand and what appeared to be a pistol in the other.
The suspect could not get into because the bank at 3:50 p.m., because it had already closed for the day. People working inside the bank saw him at the front door.
A call went out about the attempted bank robbery in Alto and according to witnesses, the man was seen heading north on Highway 69.
The Cherokee County Sheriff's office and the Rusk Police Department both staked out different roads going north from Alto, according to the report.
Rusk Police Officer Shawn Solly observed a Dodge pickup, fitting the description of the car, traveling on 69. She attempted to stop the pickup. The driver initially stopped, but sped off once she got out of her patrol car, according to the report.
Officers were then in pursuit of the truck which finally stopped on Hwy 84 near Rail Road Park. Police said the suspects were all dressed in long-sleeve black attire.
Officer Solly then went with a deputy to locations where during the pursuit she had seen the suspects throw things out of the window along the highway. They recovered 2 bullets and 2 pistols, as well as a two-way handheld police-type radio with Cherokee and Anderson County frequencies, capable of monitoring other law enforcement agencies.
All four are charged with aggravated robbery, engaging in organized criminal activity, tampering with physical evidence and evading arrest. They are being held in the Cherokee County Jail on collective bonds of $1,260,000.
Furloughed Alto Police Chief Charles Barron can't help getting emotional.
He's remorseful for the attempted bank robbery Wednesday afternoon.
"I told her I was sorry it happened," Barron said. "I did not have control over our departure there. Just blessed, glad nobody got hurt."
Had the department not shut its doors two weeks ago, some say this never would have happened.
"These kind of people when they get ready to do something, they're going to do it," Sheriff James Campbell said. "It could very well be because Alto does not have a police department."
Campbell wants Alto to reinstate police.
The city's furlough is costing his office overtime for deputies and gas for patrol cars.
Those who live in Alto are afraid it's becoming open season for crime.
"I had said before our departure all of Alto would suffer," Barron said. "I felt businesses would suffer most, and that's exactly what's happened."
Barron is just grateful no one was hurt. This time.