NEW PORT RICHEY — Marc Strojnowski had just deposited one check and was queueing up the next when he felt something press into his shoulder.
"Give me all that money," the man with the gun said.
The robber's lack of perceptiveness notwithstanding — Strojnowski was depositing a check at the ATM, not withdrawing money — Strojnowski followed his instincts and hit the gas.
The scene unfolded late Tuesday night at the Bank of America at State Road 54 and Madison Street. It covered a few frantic minutes and several dark neighborhood streets, ending with a 23-year-old man in jail.
After Strojnowski took off, he said, the suspect car reversed out of the bank. Strojnowski followed.
He's also 23 and a recent graduate of the police academy. Once he completes his criminal justice degree, he hopes to get a job as a law enforcement officer.
He immediately dialed 911, but without a good description of the gunman or a tag number, he didn't have much to give the authorities. So he chased the car, up and down empty streets, peeling around sharp turns.
He was talking to a dispatcher all the while, he said. Left on this street, right on that.
At one point, he said, the car pulled in to a driveway and the people inside ducked down. Strojnowski took down the tag.
The chase started up again — now the car had its headlights off — until the driver pulled over and took off running, according to Strojnowski and a Sheriff's Office report of the incident.
Then the passenger got behind the wheel and started driving.
"He hesitated for a second, and then he just took off," Strojnowski said.
At the intersection of Trouble Creek and Rowan roads, the mad dash came to an end. With the car stopped at a light, first one deputy pulled up, then another, and then about six more swooped in.
According to the report, the person in the car — who was not named — gave up the robber.
He said he was riding with Vincent Neil Terranova when he pulled up behind Strojnowski at the ATM and brandished a toy gun in an attempt to rob him.
Terranova, of 4710 Deer Lodge Road, was arrested later at his home and charged with robbery with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault. His bail was set at $155,000.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll said deputies did not find a gun — real or fake.
Strojnowski said he's never experienced anything like Tuesday's high-speed chase, but he impressed himself.
"I didn't really think much of it at the time," he said. "But afterward I was really glad that during a high stress level I'm able to be really calm."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6245.