Two caught, one sought for bank robbery
Published 12:00 am Friday, March 31, 2000
March 31, 2000 7 PM
YOUNGBLOOD – A three-day manhunt for a suspect in a Wednesday bank robbery in Troy has turned up a lot of leads and several sightings, but the fugitive is still not in the custody of the Troy Police Department.
The small community of Youngblood was turned inside out Friday as federal, state, county and Troy city law enforcement officers continued to hunt for the third suspect, believed to be Constantine Burt in Wednesday’s armed robbery of the Regions Bank branch located on Park Street in Troy. The suspect is considered to be "armed and dangerous."
By Friday afternoon, law enforcement officers and canines were exhausted from the extensive hunt through brush and wooded areas near the Conecuh River just off Shellhorn Road, about eight miles from Troy.
Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage said if the search turned out to be fruitless, it wouldn’t be for lack of manpower.
"We’ve got enough people on this," Everage said Friday afternoon. "It has been an extensive and exhausting search that’s kept us working around the clock for two days now."
Responding to reports of sightings in the area, Troy police officers and Pike County deputy sheriffs combed the area with dogs and all-terrain-vehicles to try to locate the elusive suspect, who officers don’t believe has eaten in days.
State Troopers are also helping with the hunt, providing a little extra manpower and a helicopter, which is assisting local enforcement officers.
Early Friday, realizing the need for fresh dogs to work the suspects trail, Everage called in a request to Ventress Correctional Facility in Barbour County for additional dogs.
"Ours need a rest after a 48-hour manhunt," Everage said.
Everage said he and his staff, along with the staff of Sheriff Russell Thomas, have not seen much sleep in the past few days.
"We’ve been going at it around the clock," Everage said.
The bank robbery case has been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal offices from the Montgomery Bureau transported two suspects who were apprehended in connection with the robber to Montgomery for questioning. They are Herbert Johnson and Claude Mims of Troy. Mims was described by the FBI as being about 18 years of age and Johnson is reportedly in his mid-20s. Ormby described Burt as a black male in his mid-20s, and some eyewitnesses reported that he was seen carrying a sack and exhibiting nervous and bizarre behavior.
"We are focusing our efforts on getting this third suspect," Everage said. "We consider him to be dangerous. He was armed at the time of the robbery and we are treating this case as if he is still armed."
Everage said the weapon police believe the suspect used in the robbery has not been recovered.
Friday morning the hunt centered on an area between Shellhorn Road and Highway 29, along the Conecuh River on Good Hope Road. By Friday afternoon, officials had moved further out and were focusing efforts on an area around the Youngblood community.
The suspect was last seen on the railroad tracks near Youngblood, and area residents and law enforcement officers have reported seeing him several times in the area.
Everage feels that the longer the hunt continues, the better the suspect’s chances of eluding officers are.
"The longer we’re out here, the better his chances are of getting away," Everage said.
According to Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas the suspect is "covering a lot of area" and the scope of the area targeted in the manhunt is "enormous," encompassing several miles.
Thomas and deputies rode four-wheelers into the wooded areas near where the suspect was last seen in hopes that they would locate him.
A command post was established at the old store near the intersection of Shellhorn Road and Good Hope Road Friday morning where officers organized their plans for locating the suspect.
As the manhunt continued into the afternoon hours, the state helicopter continued flying overhead.
Everage said a name on the suspect is not being released pending further investigation and verification of his identity, but he added that police are "pretty sure" they know who the man is.
"I feel good about saying that we think we know who the suspect is," Everage said. "But we have not officially confirmed his identity."
Friday afternoon, FBI spokesperson Sharon Ormby, based in Montgomery, said a warrant was issued for Burt, who officials believe may have been involved in the robbery. Burt is believed to be the fugitive sought by law enforcement officers.
Pike County Sheriff believes the suspect is sustaining himself on water he is getting from the Conecuh River, but said he believes the suspect is short on food.
"He has been reported as having asked some local residents for directions and food," Thomas said.
Thomas said the suspect has been cagey to avoid capture and seems to know what he is doing.
"This guy is no fool," Thomas said. "He’s tough."
Johnson and Mims are being questioned by FBI agents in Montgomery.