Bank Employee's Quick Thinking Stymies Attempted Robbery

MANATEE -- Annie Clouse, account executive at Freedom Bank, knew it was too soon for trick-or-treaters when she saw a masked man walking up to the bank's doors Wednesday morning.

"The way he was dressed - it was pretty obvious," Clouse said of a man wearing goggles and a T-shirt over his head. "I locked him out and didn't let him in."

Later, Manatee County Sheriff's deputies arrested Bryant K. Hobgood, 34. He faces a charge of trying to rob the bank at 617 Cortez Road W.

When bank employees locked the doors, the masked man hopped on a bicycle, rode away, put the bicycle in a car and drove off, according to the sheriff's office.

But Freedom Bank armored truck courier Mark Miller, a former Sarasota law enforcement officer, caught up to the man and got the car's license plate information, witnesses said.

Hobgood was arrested at his home in the 400 block of 22nd Avenue West.

He also faces a charge in the armed robbery Tuesday at the Quality Inn hotel, 2303 First St. E. According to the sheriff's office, Hobgood robbed the hotel's front desk clerk at gunpoint and took off with about $90.

Sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow said Hobgood told deputies he had planed to rob the bank and had robbed the hotel the day before.

Bristow also said Hobgood has "problems with crack cocaine."

Gerry Anthony, president and chief executive officer of Freedom Bank, said he was proud of his employees and the way they handled the situation.

"I don't know if I could have reacted that quickly," Anthony said, calling Clouse's instinct to lock the suspect out "beyond the realm of possibility" for himself.

Clouse said there were about 10 employees but no customers inside the bank at the time.

(c) 2005 Associated Press