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Three suspects apprehended following FSB robbery - with mugshots

Authorities have arrested three suspects connected to an armed bank robbery Wednesday in Fremont following a chase into Omaha.

The three individuals were taken into custody near the Village Pointe shopping center, at 168th and Dodge Street in Omaha, following an armed robbery that took place at First State Bank, at 1965 East Military Avenue, in Fremont on Wednesday morning.

The suspects are identified as Warren D. Vasser, 44 years old, of Council Bluffs, IA, Warren D. Copeland, 27, of Omaha, and Angelo C. Douglas, 25, of Omaha. All three men face charges of robbery, use of a weapon to commit a felony, possession of stolen property, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person.

According to information released by the Fremont Police Department, it was reported that four to five armed individuals entered the bank and took money from the cashier drawers and bank vault at approximately 10:35 a.m.

The men fled the bank with an undisclosed amount of money and no bank employees or customers were injured during the robbery.

“We appreciate the community’s concern and support,” said Cindy Slykhuis, vice president-marketing for First State Bank and Trust. “With there being an ongoing investigation, we are not able to release any details. We understand the suspects have been apprehended.”

Slykhuis said the bank’s Parkview branch will reopen for business on Thursday.

Despite initial reports of four to five people being involved in the robbery, authorities are not looking for any other suspects at this time according to the Fremont Police Department.

Fremont Police reported that, following the robbery, a witness saw the suspects drive away from the area in a vehicle described as a white colored sport utility vehicle. Shortly after, an FPD Lieutenant saw a vehicle matching that description which was occupied by at least three individuals driving south on Highway 275 toward Omaha.

A description of the vehicle and its direction of travel was dispatched to the Nebraska State Patrol, which led to an attempt by a Nebraska State Patrol officer to stop the vehicle on Dodge Street near Elkhorn.

Following a short pursuit that ended near Village Pointe at 168th and Dodge Streets in Omaha, three individuals were placed into custody by members of the Nebraska State Patrol.

“The three suspects were apprehended due to the great work of the State Patrol, and they did a fantastic job of bringing those guys into custody,” Huston Pullen, public affairs officer with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said.

In Fremont, a block away the First State Bank location, police tape cordoned off an empty grey Honda Odyssey minivan with the doors wide open parked in an alley near the corner of North William Avenue and East 7th Street.

According to Fremont Police the van has been determined to be one of the getaway vehicles used in the commission of the robbery, and was reported stolen out of Omaha nearly a week ago on November 9th.

Along with the Nebraska State Patrol, multiple agencies were involved in the pursuit including Omaha Police Department, Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to Pullen, the FBI Greater Omaha Bank Robbery Task Force is participating in the investigation along with NSP, FPD, and DSCO.

“The work of the Greater Omaha Bank Robbery Task Force is something that we are really proud of, and along with all of our partners throughout the Omaha area we are working together to bring these kinds of bad guys in,” Pullen said.

The First State Bank branch on Military Avenue was also hit by armed robbers over a decade ago, by two masked men with semi-automatic weapons on March 10th, 2004.

In 2006, Sherman R. Wade was sentenced for his involvement in the 2004 robbery along with robberies of four other banks in Fremont and Omaha during that time.

He received a total of 32 years on his sentence for using and carrying a firearm during the commission of the offense of bank robbery. He was also sentenced to 10 years for the bank robberies.

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Banks work to keep employees, clients safe

Banking officials briefly discussed measures in place to help keep employees and customers safe after a local bank was robbed on Wednesday morning.

Law enforcement officials said an armed robbery occurred at the First State Bank and Trust branch, 1965 E. Military Ave.

The Nebraska State Patrol confirmed that three suspects are in custody in Douglas County after a pursuit.

Cindy Slykhuis, vice president-marketing for First State Bank and Trust, said the Parkview branch would reopen on Thursday and expressed appreciation for the community’s concern and support.

“We are always looking at the best ways to keep our staff and customers safe,” she added.

Local banks take various measures to help ensure the safety of employees and clients.

Recently, Pinnacle Bank installed what’s called a secure access at all three of its Fremont locations, said Sharon Carlson, senior vice president at the local bank.

“This requires everyone to be buzzed into the lobbies,” she said.

While an outside door is open, the inside door is secure and there’s an option to lock the outside door.

The bank has protocols.

“We have procedures in place for all of our opening and closing tellers to protect them and all employees are given the authority to call the police when suspicious activities are occurring,” she said.

Kevin Langin, senior director for public relations for First National Bank of Omaha and Fremont, said those banks have a program in place, too.

“All banks in the area work closely with law enforcement to monitor the threat level — what’s going on in the area relative to bank robberies and other potential crimes that financial institutions have to deal with,” Langin said. “Based on that, we have a comprehensive safety and security program in place and those procedures are continually updated as potential threats warrant.”

Bank employees are advised to be vigilant and keep an eye out for suspicious individuals and activity.

“We encourage employees to be observant of their surroundings and to know what’s not normal activity,” Carlson said.

Employees who notice cars in the parking lots or people hanging around without a business purpose are encouraged to call police and allow them to investigate.

Customers can help by removing sunglasses and hats when they enter bank branches, which lets employees know these individuals are not suspicious, Carlson said.

Bank customers also can help by being observant.

“In today’s world I think it’s important for all of us to really be aware of the environment and that’s true whether it’s a bank or another retail location — to be aware of your surroundings and if there is a potential threat,” Langin said.

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Moore remembered for leadership, mentoring

Ron Kranz was a little late for his interview with Jim Moore.

Actually, he was about a week late.

Kranz was applying for a job at First State Bank and through a miscommunication thought he was coming just after the first of the year in 1980.

Moore, the bank president, thought his interviewee was coming the Monday after Christmas. It might have been a less-than-desirable situation for Kranz.

But Kranz would learn that Moore was a man who gave people second chances — whether it was an employee or a customer. Moore interviewed Kranz and hired him.

Now, Kranz and other Fremont area residents are remembering Moore as a mentor, father figure, encourager, promoter of education and community leader.

James Moore Jr. died Monday at Nye Legacy. He was 90 and his funeral is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at The Presbyterian Church in Fremont.

Moore, who was involved in banking since 1947, moved to Fremont as the first employee of the newly chartered First State Bank in 1956 and promoted to president in 1968. He became chairman of the board in 1987, when he and 10 Fremont businessmen purchased the bank. He retired as chief executive officer in 1992. Moore and his wife, Maria, have six daughters, 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Ron Weaklend, senior vice president at First State Bank, said Moore would want to be remembered — first and foremost — as a husband, dad and grandpa.

Kranz, whose own dad had a stroke, described Moore as a father figure. Weaklend called Moore a mentor.

“Jim was one of those older guys that a young man needs in his life — when your dad’s not around — so he was not only my boss and co-worker, but he was also one of those mentors that young guys need,” Weaklend said.

Linda Chapman, who worked at First State Bank for 37 years, remembers Moore’s encouragement.

“He encouraged me as a young supervisor and was so supportive of decisions I would make and was very helpful in that regard,” said Chapman, who began as a branch manager and went on to become a senior vice president. “He gave me many opportunities to grow in my job.”

Chapman and Kranz remembered the importance Moore placed on having employees participate in educational opportunities that would help them become more knowledgeable about banking.

“He encouraged further education both in banking and general education — not just with me, but with our staff and I think that was wonderful,” Chapman said.

Moore helped the bank grow.

“Truly, he set the foundation for what First State Bank and Trust is today,” said Chuck Johannsen, president.

Johannsen said there are a number of existing businesses that Moore helped get started with financing of those entities.

Kranz noted Moore’s ability to work well with employees and customers.

“He was great at being able to look for the good things in people,” Kranz said.

Weaklend pointed out another of Moore’s strengths.

“Jim treated everybody equally,” Weaklend said. “It didn’t matter what stage of life you were at or what personal achievements you’d accomplished in life. He just always treated everybody as an equal.”

Many remember Moore for his extensive community involvement and for encouraging employees to be involved.

Moore was chairman of the YMCA Foundation, Fremont Area United Way and Fremont Industrial Foundation. He served on numerous boards. Kranz said Moore continued attending Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce events even after retiring.

Weaklend appreciates Moore’s involvement with the Fremont Family YMCA and the Y foundation.

“I had three young boys and the Y was near and dear to me,” Weaklend said. “And without Jim and people like him the Y wouldn’t be what it is today.”

Looking back, Kranz — who retired as bank president in 2012 — has many good memories of Moore and appreciated his mentor’s understanding attitude during that scheduling miscue many years ago.

“He didn’t just write me off as somebody who wasn’t very punctual,” Kranz said. “We always got along. He treated people at the bank like family. He was a good guy.”

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Council talks Joint Law Enforcement Center

The Fremont City Council during its Tuesday evening meeting unanimously passed a resolution enabling Mayor Scott Getzschman to sign a proposal from Prochaska & Associates to share in the cost of a feasibility study for a joint law enforcement center with the Fremont Police Department and the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office.

The feasibility study costs $15,000 and is being split equally between the city of Fremont and Dodge County. During its Nov. 8 meeting, the Dodge County Board of Supervisors also approved moving forward with the feasibility study.

This study is the second step of research following a 2011 resolution passed by the City of Fremont and Dodge County which ultimately lead to an inter-local Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) – joint 9-1-1 dispatch – for the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office and the Fremont Police Department.

The vision since 2011 has been to ultimately look at the benefits of merging the two entities under one roof.

“There was no real timeline on that, and at the time our hands were full just with the PSAP, and so that was our main focus,” Getzschman said. “We have been able to get that up and running very efficiently and effectively, and it has saved tax payers dollars and we continue to see savings from that. But we are now at a point, as you know with the entire budget process, that we are looking at what is the next step for our (city) police station.”

The last thing Getzschman said he wanted to have happen was to have the 2011 resolution pass and then not investigate with Dodge County to see if there was any interest whatsoever in actively pursuing a joint law enforcement agency.

“It would be a facility that would house both Dodge County and the Fremont Police Department,” the mayor said. “It could be at our police station or it could be at a neutral location … With the study done we can determine whether it is feasible at this time or if the City of Fremont would have to go alone and make improvements to the existing police station.”

While he did ultimately vote in favor of the resolution, Ward 4 Councilmember Matt Bechtel raised some concerns about the study.

“I’m kind of struggling with even doing the study because I don’t think that the timing is right,” Bechtel said. “I don’t see it being right within the next four years, and I don’t really see how the City of Fremont is going to benefit from it, so I am kind of struggling with the idea of doing the study right now, I think that it might be too soon.”

Following Bechtel’s comments, Ward 3 member and president of the Council Scott Schaller spoke about why the feasibility study is happening at the current point in time. Simply put, he said, because the study simply determines whether the joint law enforcement center is a viable option.

“Whenever a city or an organization has the chance to correlate their efforts with another organization there is a cost savings there,” he said. “Now if we just redo our police station, that is money that is just going to be spent and then it’s a where-it’s-at situation.

“If we can do something to where we can save the cost between the county and the city and work as a team on that I think it’s great timing on that. I mean, the communication center is just a perfect example of how working together has saved taxpayers dollars in a big way. This has been in the works for a long time and I’m looking forward and excited to see where we come out with it.”