Escaped bank robber captured in S. Fayette motel

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An escaped bank robber suspected of several more heists since escaping from a Kentucky jail in June was arrested today after U.S. marshals, the Allegheny County SWAT team and police from several local departments surrounded a South Fayette motel.

U.S. Marshal Tom Fitzgerald said authorities got a tip this morning that Anthony Ray Artrip, 35, of Kentucky, was staying in the Knights Inn near Interstate 79.

After stationing themselves around the motel for much of the day and firing at least one concussion grenade, the SWAT team pumped a pepper spray-like gas into the ceiling crawl space where Mr. Artrip had holed up. That flushed him out around 3 p.m., and he was taken away in ambulance so he could be decontaminated before he was sent to jail.

Mr. Artrip escaped from the Grant County Detention Center in Kentucky on June 24, where he was being held after his conviction on three bank robberies in southern Ohio. Marshal Fitzgerald said federal authorities have been tracking him through several states, including Georgia, since Friday.

He said Mr. Artrip was on the Marshal Service's 15 most wanted list and was presumed to be armed and dangerous.

When authorities showed up at Mr. Artrip's room at the Knights Inn this morning, Mr. Artrip ran into the bathroom, punched a hole in the ceiling and climbed into the crawl space. Negotiators tried to talk to him but he wouldn't answer and kept moving around in the overhead space. Mr. Fitzgerald said that when the flash-bang grenade had no effect, SWAT pumped CS gas into the space. Mr. Artrim desperately began punching another hole in the ceiling to escape the gas and fell into another room, where he was captured. The motel, on Hickory Grade Road, near the Bridgeville exit of I-79, had been evacuated.

On June 24, Mr. Artrip made an athletic exit from the Grant County lockup in Williamstown, Ky. In a recreation area, he climbed to the top of a basketball backboard, punched his way through a wire mesh ceiling and ran across a roof. He jumped to freedom from there and disappeared into the woods.

It was the second jail in Kentucky from which he escaped. He failed in one previous attempt, authorities said.

A week after his escape, he robbed a bank in Princeton, W.Va. His note said, "Give me all the money or I'll start shooting."

He filled a McDonald's bag with money and fled in a car that later was found abandoned.

Mr. Artrip was next spotted in a bank robbery in Raleigh, N.C., where he cleaned out most of the teller's drawers at gunpoint.

There was no activity until Aug. 4, when he appeared at a bank in Monroe, Mich. He climbed over the teller counter, threatened the nearest teller with a gun, and took as much money as he could.

Three weeks later, he hit another Michigan bank and authorities tracked him to a residence in Frenchtown Township. He escaped in a stolen pickup truck as police closed in on him.

On Sept. 10, federal investigators believed the suspect was in Asheville, N.C., and distributed posters there. A day later a U.S. Marshal reported having seen him.

Marshals went there and narrowly missed their man again as he fled into woods and the hunters lost track of him.

Three days later, a bank surveillance video in Mount Airy, N.C., picked up Mr. Artrip's likeness robbing a bank there.

Late last week, he was suspected in Calhoun, Ga., where another bank was robbed.

He was spotted over the weekend in Chattanooga, Tenn., before showing up today in South Fayette. Marshals from a task force in Atlanta had been close on his trail since the Georgia heist and were present for today's arrest.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

First Published October 8, 2007 3:45 PM


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