Bank robber makes getaway in cab

January 22, 1997


Staff Writers

WILLIAMSPORT - Police were searching Wednesday for a man who carjacked a cab, forced the driver and three passengers to get out, and then used the cab as a getaway car for a bank robbery.

The carjacker showed a silver gun to the Turner's Taxi driver and three women passengers in the cab around 9:30 a.m., and forced them out of the car at Linwood Road, according to the cabdriver and one of the women in the car.

"My first thought was he was going to shoot us in the back," said passenger Stacey Knode, 28, of 119 N. Mont Valla Ave. The gunman told them to walk away from the cab and not look back, she said.


Hagerstown City Police said a man using a Turner's cab robbed the Farmers & Merchants Bank at 16802 Virginia Ave. at about 10 a.m. It was the 14th bank robbery in the Tri-State area since September.

The gunman left the bank with a black bag containing an undisclosed amount of money and a red dye pack that witnesses said activated as he was leaving in the cab, according to police.

The robber was last seen heading east on Donelson Drive and into the Van Lear development northeast of Williamsport, according to Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Michael Potter.

The cab, its engine running, was later found abandoned at the intersection of Duke Drive and Pickett Court in Van Lear, Potter said.

A police dog was taken to the scene but lost the trail a few yards from where police believe another vehicle might have been waiting to pick up the robber.

The robber was described as a black man in his 20s, 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall, wearing a black coat and dark green military-type parachute pants. He was wearing black and white Nike high-top sneakers, police said.

He wore a dark knit cap with writing on the front and a black scarf with white decorations. "That scarf was wrapped around his face so only his eyes were visible," Potter said.

Police said the robber was armed with a small-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

Cab driver Doug Sensenbaugh said the gunman called for a cab at Washington Avenue. After picking up the man, Sensenbaugh picked up two women, including Knode, on North Mount Valla Avenue and then he picked up another fare on Main Avenue.

During the ride, Sensenbaugh said the man did not say much, but was pleasant. He asked for a cigarette and Sensenbaugh gave him a light.

As he neared the man's Noland Village destination, Sensenbaugh said the man asked him to drop off the women first. But Sensenbaugh told him that he had to be dropped off first since his destination was closest.

Sensenbaugh said he drove into the housing complex and was told to stop at a house on Linwood Road. He said the man went to the door as if he were getting money, and then walked back with his hands in his pockets.

He opened the back door, placed a gun near the driver's neck, and ordered everyone out of the car, Sensenbaugh said.

Sensenbaugh, who had taken a $10 bill from one of his fares, said he tried to hide the money between the seats.

"He said, `I don't want your money and you'll get the cab back,'" Sensenbaugh said.

Sensenbaugh said that when police found the cab, the money was where he left it.

Knode, who has three young children, said she was worried the bank robber might go after those who were in the cab.

"He knows right where I live" because he was in the cab when she was picked up, Knode said. "I just hope they catch him."

Sensenbaugh said violence against cab drivers is a fact of life, even in Hagerstown. A driver's neck and arm were cut about a year and a half ago, he said. Another cab driver quit after he was robbed at gunpoint, Sensenbaugh said.

He said that before Wednesday he had been fairly lucky, although one time a man showed him a gun in his coat pocket and demanded a free ride.

Sensenbaugh, who has driven for Turner's Taxi for three years, said he would have something to think about when he reports for work today.

"I'll be a little more careful," he said. "I'll watch my back a little more."

While area police have investigated a number of bank robberies in the past five months, the arrest rate has been high - all but three have resulted in arrests.

Still unsolved are the Dec. 12 robbery at Hagerstown Trust Co.'s Prospect Avenue branch, a Jan. 10 holdup at Home Federal Savings Bank on the Dual Highway, and Wednesday's robbery at F&M.

The FBI is assisting in the investigation, police said.

Staff Writer Marlo Barnhart contributed to this story.

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