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EDINA, Minn. – Minnesota’s “Fishing Hat Bandit”, who was described by some as being “the most prolific robber of financial institutions in Minnesota history” – including REAL Financial CU -was captured Jan. 7 with the help of Dean Wickstrom, president, REAL Financial CU. The alleged bandit who earned his nickname for the floppy-brimmed style hat he wore during several of the robberies and who has been identified as 55-year old John Whitrock, robbed REAL Financial CU on Sept. 15., 2004 Since then, the credit union’s entire staff have undergone intensive training on robbery procedures. On Jan. 7 the Fishing Hat Bandit tried his luck again at the credit union, but Wickstrom said the suspect caught his attention because he was wearing an oversized jacket with a large hood which obstructed his face but which made him stand out in the teller line. Wickstrom used his cellphone to call 911 and followed Whitrock out of the credit union to a garage. The CU president said the large hood on Whitrock’s jacket obscured his vision and prevented him from seeing he was being followed. The police, FBI and SWAT teams arrived shortly afterwards and surrounded the garage. After using tear gas, the SWAT team broke through the rear window of the suspect’s car and found him hiding in the trunk. At press time, authorities hadn’t yet confirmed how many robberies Whitrock had committed. They had confirmed that he was the Fishing Hat Bandit – an FBI spokesman said the agency was confident that “the suspect known as the `Fishing Hat Bandit’ is no longer a threat to the banking community.” At his first hearing on Jan. 11, the public defender in the case said there was no threat of death and no firearm in the Jan. 7 attempted robbery. Charges against Whitrock were expected to be filed Jan. 17. -

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