Bandit makes off with money from Wellston bank

A man armed with a handgun robbed the Lake-Osceola State Bank in Wellston on Wednesday afternoon. The suspect vehicle is shown parked right outside the bank entrance. (Photo courtesy of Michigan State Police)

WELLSTON — The masked gunman who walked into the Lake-Osceola State Bank in Wellston Wednesday and walked out with a bag of money may have been involved in another area bank robbery.

State police believe the suspect may have been involved in the robbery of the bank’s Luther branch on June 3.

It isn’t known whether the man, who police think had an accomplice, is targeting that particular bank — or just small-town banks in general.

According to state police, at 2:47 p.m. a white male entered the Lake-Osceola State Bank on M-55 and robbed the bank at gunpoint.

“He had a black semi-automatic handgun and demanded money,” said Lt. Brian Postma of the Michigan State Police.

There was one customer and at least one bank employee in the building at the time. No one was injured. The bank robber’s demeanor was described by Postma as “calm and collected.”

The suspect is described as being about 6 feet-tall, between 180 and 200 pounds. He was wearing a blue shirt and a gray baseball cap with a block letter M on it, like the the University of Michigan’s.

Police also said he was in disguise, wearing a mask, aviator-style sunglasses and a straight brown wig.

After the suspect demanded money at the Wellston bank, the tellers complied and the man made off with an undisclosed amount of money.

“It was just a matter of minutes,” Postma said.

The man made his getaway in a 1992 light blue Buick Century four-door that was reported stolen out of the Clare area Tuesday. That vehicle was quickly dumped a few miles away from the bank in the national forest, on a snowmobile trail near Steinberg Road, where it was quickly identified by a Conservation Officer from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The suspect is believed to have fled in another vehicle, possibly with an accomplice.

The suspect in the Luther bank robbery was said to be a white male, 5-feet-9-inches tall and weighing 200 pounds, according to published reports. During that robbery, the suspect wore dark shoes, blues jeans, a light brown hat, a brown hooded sweatshirt or jacket with black lining and latex gloves.

Police don’t have any direct ties between the Luther and Wellston robberies besides location.

“The two are in close proximity,” Postma said. “That’s pretty unusual in a northern Michigan community.”

Before it became a Lake-Oseola State Bank, the building housed first a Manistee Bank and Trust and then a First of America Bank.

According to former bank officials, it’s believed the bank has been robbed three times in roughly the past 40 years.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will begin investigating along with the state police, which is customary in all bank robberies. Postma said any tips from the public on identifying the masked bank bandit would be very helpful. He encourages anyone with information that might be helpful to the investigation to call the Manistee State Police Post at (231) 723-3535.

“It will depend on people’s help to capture him,” Postma said. “We’d like to capture him before somebody gets hurt.”

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