Man pleads guilty to robbing bank, forcing hostages to strip for escape ride to airport


By MARGARET STAFFORD
Associated Press Writer

KANSAS CITY, Kan.- A man pleaded guilty Wednesday to pulling off a bank robbery in which he stole $144,000, forced employees to strip to their underwear and took six hostages to the airport in a bid to commandeer a plane for his getaway.

Under an agreement with federal prosecutors, 44-year-old Bennie J. Herring II will probably get 27 years in prison at sentencing in March, defense attorney Michael Harris said.

The May 18 robbery and escape attempt were foiled when five police officers shot and wounded Herring at the Johnson County Executive Airport. Herring has been recovering from his wounds at a prison hospital.

Authorities said Herring entered the Olathe branch of Capitol Federal Savings wearing a ski mask and black sweat shirt that read "SHOW ME THE MONEY." He ordered 10 employees and one customer to strip to their underwear, then took the assistant manager and five employees in a van to the airport.

Prosecutors said Herring held the gun to one hostage's head and fired two shots at police from the van.

Herring was shot as he tried to seize an airplane with a flight instructor and student inside. He had been a flight student but did not have a pilot's license.

Herring pleaded guilty to bank robbery, using a gun to commit a crime and attempting to commit air piracy.

In court Wednesday, Herring said he had planned to use money from the robbery to start a jazz supper club. He also said he had been unemployed and suicidal before committing the crimes.

Family members said Herring was laid off from a computer contracting job in Wichita last December.

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