RENO, Nev. (AP) — The suspect in a deadly Reno bank robbery has a lengthy criminal record with 62 arrests dating back to 1967 and five felony convictions, federal prosecutors said.
U.S. Magistrate Valerie Cooke ordered that Van McDuffie, 66, be detained without bail after hearing about his criminal history during an initial court appearance Thursday.
He has been charged with bank robbery with use of a dangerous weapon causing death after fleeing a Bank of America branch with $13,000.
Bank customer Bob Sperry, 80, was fatally shot after he told the suspect to “get out of here” during the holdup Wednesday morning.
Sperry’s family told KOLO-TV he was a Vietnam veteran and 24-year career Marine who would do anything for a stranger.
“His whole life, he just liked helping people … It made him happy,” son Greg Sperry said.
Though prosecutors did not release specific information about McDuffie’s arrests, Assistant U.S. Attorney for Nevada Megan Rachow said some of the cases involved violent crime.
“The facts and circumstances of this crime are very egregious,” Rachow said.
Cooke also ruled that McDuffie remain detained based on his parole violations, his past use of aliases and the seriousness of the current charges against him, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
According to an FBI affidavit, McDuffie allegedly pushed at least two people during the robbery and approached a teller with a gun before demanding money.
At that time, Sperry told him to leave. He approached McDuffie and a scuffle ensued. McDuffie then shot Sperry in the chest, Rachow said.
Reno police said it’s rare for customers to intervene with bank robbery suspects and it’s something they would discourage.
“With any type of crime, I’d tell people to be a very good witness, not to interject,” police Lt. Bill Rulla told KTVN-TV. “It’s your safety, it’s other people’s safety. Even if you try to do the right thing, it could harm others as well.”
By chance, an unarmed off-duty off officer was inside the bank at the time and soon caught the suspect at a nearby bus stop. He removed the suspect’s weapon and held him until police arrived.
The Reno Police Department did not release the name of the officer but hailed him for his “heroic actions” and “commitment to the safety of our community,” the Gazette-Journal reported.
According to the FBI, a total of 5,014 robberies occurred at banks, credit unions and savings and loans nationwide in 2011, the latest data available. In those cases, two law enforcement officers and one security guard were killed — but no customers.
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