COLUMBIA — A Florida man was arrested in connection with a robbery at the First National Bank at Broadway and Garth Avenue that occurred Wednesday afternoon.
Johnny Miller, 40, of Pinellas, Fla., was arrested on suspicion of first-degree robbery and armed criminal action, according to a Columbia Police news release. As of 10:22 p.m. Wednesday, Miller was being held in the Boone County Jail.
At around 3:30 p.m., a man entered the bank, displayed a gun and demanded money, Capt. Brad Nelson, Columbia Police Investigative Division Commander, said. The suspect then left the bank with an undisclosed amount of money and traveled west on foot.
Approximately 8 minutes later, an officer spotted the suspect running northwest through an apartment complex west of Doctor’s Park. Officers then surrounded the complex to block potential escape. About 20 minutes later, the suspect was caught in the foyer area of RE/MAX Boone Realty at 33 E. Broadway.
A black bag containing money, a wig and sunglasses from the incident was found in the shrubbery on the east side of the School of Metaphysics adjacent to the bank, Nelson said. Police later found a loaded handgun in the area from which the suspect had run.
“The money has not been counted yet,” Nelson said. “There were several people inside the bank and the suspect encountered two tellers.” The tellers are a 22-year-old male and a 21-year-old female, Nelson said.
The suspect was described as a white male, wearing a brown wig, a mask over the lower part of his face and sunglasses, Nelson said.
John Ducharme said he was at the Columbia Public Library when he saw police running after the suspect.
“They circled the block a few times and stormed in the library looking for suspects,” he said.
The First National Bank closed after the robbery and police questioned employees inside the bank.
The chase occurred close to Grant Elementary. Police notified the school of the robbery after students were already released from the building, the school’s principal, Beverly Borduin, said.
When teachers noticed that police were pursuing a suspect, they immediately gathered around the students that were still on school grounds, Borduin said. Teachers also raced to catch up with students who were walking home to make sure they were safe, she said.
“They did everything they could to reassure children and keep them safe,” Borduin said.
At 3:50 p.m., police notified the school that the suspect had been arrested.
Borduin said she spoke to assistant superintendent Jack Jensen Wednesday night about establishing better communication between the police and school officials concerning incidents such as the robbery.
Jensen will be talking to the police to find out if there is a way for schools to be notified earlier, Borduin said.
“I think we’d all just want a better source of communication, and I’m sure they’d want that, too,” she said.
At 3:47 p.m., Columbia Police Joint Communications also notified Lee Elementary that no lockdown was needed because the suspect had been caught, the school’s principal, Teresa VanDover, said. The school, located at Locust St. and Waugh St., is about one mile east of the bank. The school had begun dismissal for students walking home or being picked up but not for students riding the bus, she said. Students could have been brought back inside and the school locked down if the need arose, she said.
Missourian reporters Angie Cipponeri, Sarah Palmer and Chad Day contributed to this report.