Fatal Robbery Puts Bankers on Notice

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Feb. 19, 2007 12:00 am  

President and CEO of Metropolitan Nation Bank Lunsford Bridges was visiting a relative in Hot Springs on Dec. 23 when he got the call informing him that one of his employees had been shot during a robbery.

"Some of the smaller banks may have some private insurance, but usually that's not the case," Rehder said. "They just have to suck up the loss themselves."

Dec. 23

What happened on Dec. 23 was unusual in almost every respect. The solo robber didn't have a note, and he didn't attempt a takeover. His gender and age were the only things that were typical; bank robbers are nearly always male and more than 40 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29, according to FBI statistics. 

Police say Grover Evans Jr. went into Metropolitan National Bank's Colony West branch at 10300 N. Rodney Parham just after 11 a.m. Two customers were in the branch. 

The robber went to the window in front of Garison, who had worked at the bank for about a year and was working the drive-through teller station. 

"Jim saw him as he came in, and we're not sure exactly what occurred from that point," Bridges said. "Jim was turning his back to face his window, when he was shot."

The robber went to another teller and took some money from her, Bridges said.

"As he was leaving, he said, 'Merry Christmas.'" 

Garison died later at Baptist Hospital, making the crime that much more unusual. In 2005, only 2 percent of bank robberies resulted in injuries, according to the American Bankers Association. Bridges said Garison was the only bank employee killed during a robbery in Arkansas during his 44 years in the banking industry.

In the aftermath of Garison's murder, Bridges said, counseling services were made available to the customers, Garison's family and other employees.

"You have to collaborate with your whole [management] team on how to respond," Bridges said. 
Most banks reopened the following Tuesday, since Christmas fell on Monday. But Bridges kept the Colony West branch closed one extra day.

"And that was a decision that we talked about and thought about an awful lot before we decided to open that soon," he said. "We felt that it was important to our customers and to our employees to open when we did."



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