NEW ATHENS — A man accused of robbing the U.S. Bank hid in a nearby apartment building for more than four hours before he was arrested Friday afternoon.
According to police, the unarmed man entered the bank at 1100 Spotsylvania St. at 9:21 a.m. dressed in a pink dress and wig and passed a teller a note.
The teller complied and gave the man an undisclosed amount of money. The man then left on foot.
Witnesses said they saw the man throw the wig under a bush outside the bank and take off the dress and hide it in a garage before walking into a nearby apartment complex at 1109 Phillips St., where he remained for the next five hours.
A pair of SWAT teams and officers from Belleville, Red Bud, Swansea and several other jurisdictions cleared the neighborhood surrounding the apartments.
Shortly before 2 p.m., police used a loudspeaker to ask the suspect to surrender. At 2:23 p.m., the suspect, who was wearing a St. Louis Cardinals jersey, emerged from the front door and was put into a police cruiser.
The man was interviewed by the FBI and New Athens Police Department and was transported to St. Clair County Jail in Belleville, where he awaits further pending charges.
Police did not release the man's name Friday night.
New Athens Police Chief Terry Marquardt said the man was visiting someone who lived in the apartment where he was hiding. He said that he did not know where the man lives.
Doreen Sanders, who lives in the apartment building where the suspect was hiding, said the occupant of the apartment where he was found usually leaves her windows open.
"I came home and police had the street blocked off," Sanders said. "They wouldn't tell me anything about what was going on. They just said it wasn't safe to be here and I should leave."
After being told by neighbors about the robbery, Sanders said she saw a man fitting the suspect's description wandering around in her neighborhood about 8 a.m.
"He looked like he was lost," Sanders said. "I thought it was odd. But I was in a hurry and didn't think too much about it."
About a half hour before the suspect surrendered, SWAT officers moved into position at the front and rear of the apartment and other officers told neighbors standing in their back yards watching the scene unfold that they were too close. One sheriff's deputy warned residents that they were easily within range of a stray round from a high-powered rifle.
Police did not immediately say if the suspect was found to have a weapon.
The standoff created a scary situation for local parents. The bank is near an elementary school and the campus was locked down for four hours after the robbery, according to New Athens School District Superintendent Brian Karraker.
Shortly before the suspect surrendered, school leaders were calling out the names of individual students over the public address system to call them to the door for their parents to pick up.
New Athens resident Amy Heggemeier said she received a phone call Friday morning that the school where her children were was on lockdown and that she needed to pick them up at the school cafeteria.
"It was a big mess to get the kids," Heggemeier said. "It was scary because I was working and to hear the school is on lockdown because of something like that and you can't get to your kids, it's kind of scary. I called my boss and told her I'm not coming into the office, I'm going straight home to get my kids as soon as I can. And she's like, 'In New Athens that happened?,' and I said, 'Yeah.'"
Reporter Will Buss contributed information for this report.