A suspected armed robber apparently chose the wrong man to target in the parking lot of a Northeast Philadelphia bank late Monday night.
The outlandish investigation began when police officers responded to the parking lot of the Wells Fargo bank on Bustleton Avenue near Bleigh, behind the Roosevelt Mall, about 11 p.m. for what they initially believed to be a victim in a hit-and-run crash. When they arrived, officers found a man with severe head injuries and a hood pulled tight over his head lying on the pavement, according to Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum, of Northeast Detectives.
After medics took the man to a hospital, accident-investigation officers arrived at the scene, and learned there might be more to the story: As they investigated, the officers found a large knife apparently belonging to the injured man in the parking lot, Rosenbaum said.
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Other officers managed to track down the striking vehicle parked on Rutland Street near Tyson Avenue, in the Castor neighborhood, not far from where the man was struck, Rosenbaum said. They found the windshield broken, he said -- damage consistent with striking a person -- but also discovered what appeared to be a hole in the glass made by a knife.
"[Accident investigation] goes over there and notices it looks like the knife went through the windshield, so right away, he knows something's up," Rosenbaum explained. "There's something more to this."
Officers finally managed to track down the car's owner, a man who Rosenbaum said didn't speak much English. Through an interpreter, police learned that the man had stopped at the drive-up ATM at the Wells Fargo bank earlier that night, about 10:50 p.m., with his wife and child in the car. As he used the ATM, a robber approached him at gunpoint, Rosenbaum said.
The man got back into his car and took off, but realized he left his card in the ATM, according to police. He drove around the block and stopped back at the ATM to get his card, but when he got there, Rosenbaum said, the robber jumped back out at him -- this time, armed with a knife.
Rosenbaum said that's when the man hit the armed robber with the car, according to his statement to police.
As the man lay injured on the ground, Rosenbaum said, the driver -- who police now say is the true victim in the case -- went to him and took back the cash and ATM card he'd stolen, then drove to his home.
Rosenbaum said police obtained some surveillance stills from the incident that do indeed show the man who was struck by the car approaching the victim with a gun in his hand. Police still haven't located that gun, the lieutenant said, although they did recover the knife he used later from the parking lot.
The suspected robber remained hospitalized later Tuesday in critical condition, Rosenbaum said. He'll face armed-robbery charges when he's released.
"We did get the bank's surveillance still shots, and that corroborates the complainant's version of the events," Rosenbaum said. "So we're going to request a warrant and formally charge him with robbery and related offenses."
Rosenbaum said the suspected robber, whose identity has not yet been made public, has had several prior run-ins with the law. He said detectives will also be looking into the possibility that he could be connected to at least one other recent armed robbery done in a similar fashion in the same neighborhood.