SPRING HILL — After an armed and masked man robbed a bank Friday morning along U.S. 19, Hernando County authorities tracked a suspect to a nearby PetSmart restroom, where they took him into custody as he tried to shave and change clothes.
But by midafternoon, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office said in a media release, the man had been freed and had his van returned to him.
As of Friday evening, investigators were still searching for a white man described as 6 feet, 200 pounds and in his 40s, wearing a black jacket, black pants, a hat and a bandanna.
The earlier suspect was seen Friday morning in a shopping center parking lot near the PetSmart by a civilian working with the Sheriff's Office. The man matched the description of the person who robbed the Superior Bank at 9:25 a.m., authorities said. The bank is in the Hernando West Plaza at Pinehurst Drive and U.S. 19.
The civilian employee saw the man putting items into a silver Chevrolet Venture van and notified a deputy. The deputy then watched the unidentified man enter the PetSmart store about 9:44 a.m. and called for backup. Soon after, authorities said, the man was taken in for questioning. Deputies said he at first refused to talk to them, but was released after they found evidence to clear him.
The robber pulled a revolver during the holdup and ran off with an undisclosed amount of cash, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Authorities asked that anyone with information about the robbery call Hernando Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-866-990-8477.
Reach John Woodrow Cox at (352) 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.