At first glance it looks like something out of an Orwellian horror film. Police with high power weapons and riot shields shutting down an intersection on a busy city street, rousting families out of cars, handcuffing them all and lining them up on the pavement. But in this case, there was a method to the mayhem. An unknown individual wearing a beekeeper’s mask – hiding not only their identity, race, age, etc. but their gender as well – had robbed a nearby bank and the police were out to get the bad guy.
The Wells Fargo at Chambers and Hampden was robbed just before closing time on Saturday. Shortly afterwards police shut down the intersection of Buckley and Iliff just southeast of the bank, corralling nearly two dozen cars in search for the suspect.
Police Chief Daniel Oates on Monday apologized to the innocent bystanders that got caught up in the search for the suspect. Oates also said the ends justify the means since the suspect was caught.
The police are still apologizing for the inconvenience and trauma to all of the motorists caught up in the sweep, but insist that there was no question of the location of the suspect.
“We had a virtual certainty that the bank robber was in one of those cars,” Oates said.
Officers did find the suspect in one of the cars, and he will likely face bank robbery charges in federal court, Oates said. Investigators also found a beekeeper mask they say the man wore during the robbery as well as two pistols connected to the crime, he said.
So how did they have a “virtual certainty” that the bank robber would be found at that location? The bank teller had inserted a GPS device in the bag of money they gave the suspect and the police were tracking him. When it became obvious that the getaway car was approaching a choke point in the traffic, officials moved in, shut it down and began methodically going through every car at that intersection. And they found the guy, who the police described as “extraordinarily dangerous.”
But now some of the motorists are raising questions as to whether their civil rights were violated with the mass detention. And adding insult to injury, the lawyer for the suspect is already claiming that his client initially refused the police demand to search his vehicle until he felt “pressured” to do so and that all the evidence obtained from the search – money, guns, beekeeper mask – should be thrown out. (No link on that portion of the story yet, but CNN is covering it on their morning lineup.) Seriously?
I hope there is a judge out there with the common sense to toss this notion out to the curb. Yes, many people were inconvenienced, and the police have already offered an apology. But the cops were in the process of quickly apprehending a violent, heavily armed felon right in their midst. And as to the suspect’s claims of some sort of illegal search… how high does that bar have to be? If you can narrow down the location of the evidence to a group of twenty or so cars, is that not “probably cause” enough?
If this guy walks, the world has truly gone mad.