06/02/2006

Off-duty Ohio officer's shots foil bank robbery

Gabriel Baird, Plain Dealer Reporter
Copyright 2006 Plain Dealer Publishing Co. 

An off-duty Cleveland policeman fired at least four shots at a masked gunman Wednesday, foiling a bank robbery.

No one was injured and the assailant got away.

Several customers, bank employees and Patrolman Phillip Hawkins were in the US Bank branch at East 40th Street and Woodland Avenue about 9:50 a.m. when the robber pointed a gun at a teller, police said.

The robber said this was a robbery, according to witnesses.

"Not today it's not," said Hawkins, who was working as a security guard at the bank.

The robber turned to point his gun at the six-year police veteran. The officer shot at the masked man at least twice, police Lt. Thomas Stacho said. One of the bullets put a hole through the bank's glass exit door.

The robber never got off a shot and ran out of the bank. Hawkins, who turned 37 Tuesday, chased the man across Woodland Avenue and fired two more shots. Police don't believe that either hit the man.

The robber shed his mask and disappeared in the maze of two-story brick buildings that make up the Outhwaite Estates housing complex.

Police recovered the patrolman's shell casings and the mask. They took a man into custody for questioning but continued their search.

Some residents expressed concern that the patrolman fired near their homes, where children often play in the courtyards. But they said no children were out playing at the time of the shooting.

Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, said Hawkins has a good record as an officer and is also an artist. Hawkins worked for American Greetings designing cards before joining the force, Loomis said.

The bank's surveillance cameras recorded the robbery, but police declined to release the video.

The Police Department's Use of Deadly Force Investigation Team is investigating the incident.

Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at 216-623-5464.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: gbaird@plaind.com, 216-999-4141 

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