Clearwater Fifth Third Bank robbed; suspect in custody after witness tip

CLEARWATER — A savvy citizen helped police track down a bank robber Tuesday, authorities said.

The unidentified person alerted officers after seeing the robber get into a dark gray car after the bank heist at Fifth Third Bank, 2710 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., according to Clearwater police.

Police quickly arrested 34-year-old Dennis Herring of Eureka, S.D.

Investigators said Herring walked into the bank around 9:20 a.m. and flashed a weapon, then jumped over the counter and ordered a teller to open drawers. After stealing an undisclosed amount of cash, he jumped into the car and drove off, police said.

When a police officer saw the vehicle — a Chevrolet similar to a PT Cruiser — and tried to pull it over, Herring drove off, authorities said. He stopped in the area of Drew Street and Vine Avenue, bailed out of the car and ran away, but was quickly taken into custody.

Police said they found the money and the weapon, which they did not describe.

Herring has a lengthy arrest record and has served several stints in prison in Florida on convictions of burglary, attempted robbery with a deadly weapon, sale and possession of cocaine and felon in possession of a firearm, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

He was released from Jackson Correctional Institute in Malone in the Panhandle near the Alabama line in August after serving about half of a four-year prison sentence on convictions of robbery with a deadly weapon in three separate incidents, prison records show.

Tuesday evening, Herring had not yet been booked into the Pinellas County Jail.

The same bank also was robbed in October 2010 and March 2009.

Police arrested 32-year-old Denario D. Jones of Tampa in connection with the 2009 robbery, said Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts. In April 2009, Jones pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to 20 months in prison, according to Pinellas County court records. No arrests have been made in the 2010 robbery, Watts said.

Clearwater Fifth Third Bank robbed; suspect in custody after witness tip 04/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 8:49pm]

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