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Bank robbery suspect arrested after wild chase

November 14, 1996

11/14/96

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

A bank robbery suspect who led police on a high-speed chase through Hagerstown's North End was arrested after his car crashed into a fence near Hagerstown Fairgrounds Wednesday morning.

Michael Shawn Clark, 31, of 141 King St., Hagerstown, was taken into custody by Washington County Sheriff's Deputy 1st Class Paul Boyer after a tense moment in which he briefly put a gun in his mouth, police said.

Clark was charged with armed robbery, robbery, felony theft, first-degree assault, use of a handgun in commission of a felony, transporting a handgun, reckless endangerment and a number of traffic violations, including speeding, according to court documents.

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He was being held at the Washington County Detention Center Wednesday night on $75,000 bond following an initial appearance before a District Court commissioner.

The incident began with a 10:55 a.m. robbery at the Hagerstown Trust Company branch at 19922 Jefferson Boulevard, said Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Michael Potter, who headed up the investigation.

"A lone masked man approached the tellers and ordered all to the floor,'' Potter said. Then the robber told one woman to fill up a bag with money.

Six employees, but no customers, were in the bank at the time.

After getting the money, the man fled through a rear door, Potter said.

"Two female clerks followed him out the door and saw him get into a vehicle in the Keller's Upholstery parking lot,'' Potter said.

Once in the car, the man removed the mask, and the women were able to give police his description and that of the car he was driving, Potter said.

A police radio broadcast of the robbery and the description of the car launched a chase that wove through the North End of Hagerstown, with police vehicles joining the chase as it progressed.

The chase reached speeds of up to 85 mph in a 40 mph zone on Eastern Boulevard, according to court documents.

Near what would be the end of the chase, Boyer, following behind the speeding car, radioed his duty officer: "Permission to take him out," Knight said.

The duty officer radioed back permission for the deputies to crash their cruisers into the suspect's car if the opportunity arose, Knight said.

The deputy was concerned that the fleeing driver could wreck into an innocent person's car or hit pedestrians, Knight said.

At about 11:11 a.m., the suspect turned into the alley parallel to North Mulberry Street, but failed to make the 90-degree turn and struck the fence, Knight said.

Boyer stopped about five or six feet away, but when he saw the driver attempting to back up and get away, he drove his cruiser into the back of the suspect's car in an attempt to pin it against the fence, Knight said.

The driver backed up his car three times, striking Boyer's cruiser in an attempt to get away, Knight said.

Another deputy used his cruiser to help block the suspect's car and other deputies and Hagerstown officers surrounded the car, Knight said.

Money and a .32-caliber semiautomatic weapon were recovered from the car, Potter said.

Five years ago, Clark was indicted for bank larceny in the January 1991 robbery of the First National Bank branch at Valley Mall. The charges later were dropped, according to police reports.

Two other people were prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore for that robbery, which involved a fake bomb.

Staff Writer Clyde Ford contributed to this story.

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