Bound and Gagged, Bank Employee Dialed 911 With Her Feet
Federal criminal complaint filed against man accused of robbing an Oak Lawn bank on Saturday recounts terrifying takeover robbery.
At the end of a busy Saturday, two employees at the Bank of America branch were finishing up their day by counting the proceeds inside the vault, unaware that someone was watching them from above through an opening in the roof.
Within moments, a lone black male carrying a large gun entered the vault and ordered the employees—both women—to the floor. Thus began a takeover robbery that ended with both employees bound and gagged by the bandit, and a manhunt that would not end until early the next morning.
A federal criminal complaint sheds more light on this weekend’s bank robbery in Oak Lawn that saw police sharpshooters poised on the roofs of neighborhood homes in a methodical search for the armed gunman.
Charles B. Estell, 37, of Chicago, was charged in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Sunday with one count of bank robbery. Estell, who has prior convictions for vehicular hijacking and possession of a stolen auto, faces a 20-year prison sentence if convicted.
SWAT teams found Estell stuck in an air duct after an 11-hour manhunt in the ceiling of the shopping center where the bank is located at 4060 W. 111th St.
While normal closing hours for the bank branch are at 1 p.m. Saturday, because customers were still inside at that time, the bank doors were not locked until 1:25 p.m. after the last customer was served.
The women inside the vault were the only employees remaining at the bank. Shortly after 2 p.m., Estell, wearing a wig of long dreadlocks with beads at the ends, clad in black with a black bandana covering his face, entered the vault, the complaint said.
Announcing, “This is a robbery,” the FBI said Estell ordered both employees to get down on the floor and keep their heads down. Informing the employees that, “I don’t want to kill you or hurt you, I just want money,” the complaint said Estell bound one of the women’s wrists with black zip ties and duct tape.
The FBI said that Estell began taking money from the counter and vault area, asking the employees for the combination to the vault. The employee left unbound, opened the vault for the alleged bandit.
According to the complaint, Estell began emptying currency from the vault compartments into a black bag that he had brought with him. Asking the second employee where the keys were kept for the three teller drawers that were locked in the vault, she told Estell that the keys were with the tellers.
As her coworker was with the accused robber, the first employee, with her hands bound, told police the she heard at times what seemed to be the robber talking to another person, possibly on a cell phone, the complaint said.
Estell was also said to have asked the employees for the tapes to bank’s video surveillance system, only to learn that there were no tapes. After he had stuffed his bag with $100,000 in currency, the complaint said Estell duct taped the first employee’s feet and mouth, and then similarly bound and gagged the second employee.
Bank of America corporate security were also watching the robbery unfold inside the vault from a remote location on close circuit TV and notified Oak Lawn police.
The alleged robber told the women to “wait ten minutes before you try anything.” Both employees said they could tell that the robber did not exit through the closed vault door, and believed he exited through the ceiling, the complaint said.
After he was gone, the second employee was able to dial 911 for help with her feet.
READ Oak Lawn Patch's coverage of Saturday's bank robbery: