Police: Alleged bank robber dies in crash after chase

Published 5:55 pm Saturday, March 12, 2022

From staff and wire reports

NASHVILLE, N.C.  — A man suspected of robbing banks in the Carolinas, including one in Salisbury, died in a car crash on Friday night following a police chase and a “forced stop” by a sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina, authorities said Saturday afternoon.

The sheriff’s deputy conducted the “forced stop” maneuver with his police vehicle on Interstate 95 because the man was driving at dangerous speeds in his small SUV and would not pull over, Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said at a news conference.

Stone said the maneuver is used to get a vehicle off a roadway “as soon as possible” in dangerous circumstances. The man was driving on wet roads towards the communities of Rocky Mount and Nashville, the sheriff said.

Stone said the maneuver was “not a ramming technique, it was a gentle movement.”

“The vehicle of the suspect went off the left shoulder of road, traveled some distance down the road, and at that time he ended up against a tree and was partially ejected,” Stone said. “The two deputies on the scene rendered first aid by giving CPR.”

Stone said the man was not wearing a seatbelt. He was identified as Thomas Lester Ketelsen, 60, of Conover. Stone described Ketelsen as a “career criminal,” with a record that involves burglary, larceny, forgery, counterfeiting of U.S. currency, armed robbery and bank robbery.

The sheriff said Ketelsen was suspected of robbing a bank in Conover on Thursday as well as another bank on Friday in Summerville, South Carolina, which is outside of Charleston. A fugitive warrant was issued to the U.S. Marshals Service for Ketelsen, who was already on federal probation for previous convictions, Stone said.

Police said Ketelsen was also suspected of robberies in Salisbury on Thursday and Camden on Friday. Salisbury Police were investigating the robbery of the F&M Bank branch on Jake Alexander Boulevard, which happened at 9:22 a.m.

The suspect was described then as a 60-year-old man who approached a counter staffed by two tellers, one of whom was in training, according to a city of Salisbury news release. The man passed a note to the tellers and didn’t display a gun. The tellers gave the man an undisclosed amount of money and he left in a silver Honda CRV.

Ketelsen was driving a silver Honda on Friday that authorities had connected to a suspected bank robbery, Stone said. And it was seen driving north on I-95 on Friday evening in Robeson County, which is near the South Carolina line.

At about 10:40 p.m., deputes in Nash County tried to pull the vehicle over, Stone said.

“The suspect had slowed down to below the posted speed limit,” Stone said. “And when the deputies got behind him, activated their blue lights and sirens, he accelerated and continued on.”

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