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Police hot on trail of a bank robber

S.L. elementary school locked down as police hunt man

SWAT team members take cover behind a truck outside the house where suspect was thought to be hiding.
SWAT team members take cover behind a truck outside the house where suspect was thought to be hiding.
Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

A Salt Lake elementary school was placed in lockdown and a downtown street blocked off Tuesday afternoon as a SWAT team looked for an alleged bank robber.

Investigators did not find the man they were looking for Tuesday. But they said they know who he is and that they were hot on his trail.

"He's on the run. He knows we're after him. We would advise him to turn himself in because we're not going to be far behind," said West Valley police Capt. Tom McLachlan.

Detectives said they were quite familiar with the man they were looking for because they arrested him and sent him to prison for robbing the same bank six years ago.

Tuesday's incident began just after 9 a.m. when a man walked into Chase Bank, 3430 S. Redwood Road, and handed the teller a note demanding money. The teller complied with the robber's commands and put an undisclosed amount of cash into a file folder he was carrying.

Shortly after leaving the bank, however, several witnesses reported to police they saw a dye pack explode from inside the folder carrying the money. The man dropped the folder and ran to a nearby vehicle, McLachlan said, where witnesses were able to write down the license plate number.

All of the money was recovered, some of it now red instead of green, but McLachlan said, more importantly, no one was injured.

"You can replace money. You can't replace people," he said.

Based on the vehicle registration and the bank surveillance video, police began looking for 42-year-old Charles Dennis Friedman, who was released from a federal prison in June after serving six years for being convicted on a bank robbing indictment.

In 1999, Friedman was arrested in connection with three bank robberies, including the bank robbed Tuesday morning, only in 1999 it was a Bank One. He eventually pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery and was sentenced to a federal prison in California to be followed by three years of probation.

By 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, West Valley police found the alleged getaway vehicle near 300 East and 800 South, not far from a house where Friedman had reportedly been living for a week.

West Valley police called Salt Lake City's SWAT team for assistance. The SWAT team quickly blocked off 800 South. Some residents evacuated while others were told to keep down and stay away from the windows.

Nearby Lincoln Elementary School was placed in lockdown. When it was time for school to let out for the day, parents who lived in the affected area were called to pick up their children. The other students were allowed to go home their usual ways. Several Salt Lake City police officers were stationed around the blocked-off perimeter to help keep the children out of the area.

The SWAT team moved inside the house just after 4 p.m. and, by 4:15 p.m., determined the man they were looking for was not there.

"We have reason to believe he was there at some point this afternoon," said Salt Lake City police detective Dwayne Baird.

Police are asking for the public's help. Anyone with information on Friedman is asking to call Salt Lake City police at 801-799-3000 or West Valley City police at 801-840-4000.