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Cops seeking Harrison bank robber

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 6:36 p.m.
Courtesy of HARRISON TWP. POLICE
The man who robbed the First Niagara Bank along Freeport Road in Harrison on Tuesday was photographed by a bank camera. He shrouded his head with a burlap-like cloth and other headgear. May 21, 2013.
Harrison, Brackenridge police investigate the robbery at the First Niagara Bank in Harrison Tuesday afternoon. May 21, 2013.

A Marine who did two tours in Iraq and now owns a karate school chased a man who robbed a Harrison bank on Tuesday afternoon.

Erinne Sackett said her husband, Brian Sackett, was working out in his business, C.S. Kim Karate, when she saw a man with his face covered running from the First Niagara branch at 1509 Freeport Road, across from their storefront on Idaho Avenue.

The robbery happened around 3:30 p.m., a half-hour before the bank's scheduled closing time.

Sackett said she was “pretty sure” the man had just robbed the bank because he was wearing a hoodie in Tuesday's hot and muggy weather.

“I said, ‘I think that guy just robbed the bank,' ” she said.

Given her husband's background, she said he “thought nothing” about pursuing the apparent robber.

“He's dealt with terrorists and things like that,” she said.

Harrison police Officer Scott Falkner said the robber passed a handwritten note demanding money and claiming he had a hostage in his vehicle. Falkner said there was no evidence that there was a hostage.

The man was given bundles of bills, some of which he dropped as he fled. Falkner would not disclose how much money the robber got away with.

Nobody was hurt, Falkner said.

The robber was short, had long hair and shielded his face with a hunting cloth with eyeholes cut out.

Brian Sackett, 32, of Allegheny Township said he followed the man in his car to get as much information as he could for police. He did tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and was honorably discharged in 2008.

“I understand to be able to find someone, you need as much intel as possible,” he said. “That was my purpose. I wasn't trying to take them down or anything like that. I was just trying to help the police get as much information to make their job easier.”

Police said the robber had a getaway driver, a white male, waiting in a white Ford F-150 truck nearby on Carlisle Street, behind the former Heights Elementary school. They fled south, toward Brackenridge.

Sackett said his pursuit of the robber lasted only a few minutes. He ended up in front of them, then lost them as they fled. He said he encountered a police officer, who told him to go back to the bank.

“I was glad at least I got a description to help the police,” he said. “At this point, no one knew there were two people.”

A representative of First Niagara could not be reached for comment.

Falkner said the FBI was notified and is checking the bank's surveillance recordings.

“I'm glad no one was hurt,” Sackett said. “I was shot at (in war). I was mortared. Situations like this really don't faze me. Hopefully, the people at the bank don't have any problems sleeping or anything like that.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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