A 31-year-old Northwest Washington man was wounded yesterday by police gunfire and captured moments after the robbery of a Bethesda bank that had been staked out by Montgomery County police.
The suspect, Michael J. Wilson, also known as Michael Will Bey, of First Street and Seaton Place NW, was captured after a wild, block-long chase that ended when his car overturned and came to rest against the wall of a bowling alley.
Wilson was taken to Suburban Hospital with gunshot wounds on the face and arm and was reported in critical condition there last night.
The arrest came after a two-week long police stakeout of the Bank of Bethesda branch at 5450 Westbard Ave., which had been the scene of two previous robberies in the last three weeks.
Police said they recovered a high-caliber handgun and cash, believed to be about $10,000, from the suspect's car. There were no other injuries reported in the 2 p.m. incident, which shocked bystanders and disrupted the flow of business at the Westwood Shopping Center, in which the bank is located.
Police said they began their stakeout after the bank was robbed Dec. 30, for the second time in a week.
Both of those armed robberies, which netted more than $40,000, had been committed near the bank's closing time of 2 p.m. Yesterday, about that same time, two uniformed officers were stationed in an unmarked car outside the bank when, according to Montgomery County police spokesman Sgt. Harry Geehreng, they noticed a "suspicious-looking man" entering the bank.
A bank employe also saw the man enter the bank and thought he looked like the man who committed the Dec. 30 robbery, according to police. The employe pressed a silent alarm, alerting police that a robbery was in progress, "before he the man being watched even got through the second set of doors," police said.
The bank employe said the robber emptied two tellers' drawers and left the bank without incident.
From their unmarked car, the two police officers, who had been alerted by radio that a robbery was in progress, watched as the man, wearing a stocking mask and carrying a bundle under his arm, left the bank and ran through a drive-in passageway to an alley in the rear of the shopping center.
One officer chased the man through the passageway and the other ran along the front of the shopping center to cut off the escape route at the other end of the alley.
The man apparently had parked his car, a brown, late-model Mercury, in an alley. Police said they ordered the him to halt as he entered the car, and as he drove off, the officer following him fired.
A slightly different version of the shooting was offered by Stan Morrow, 41, a federal employe who works in a building behind the bank. Morrow said he ran to a window after hearing several shots outside and saw two policemen aiming shotguns down the alley. Moments later, he said, a car appeared and came toward the officers, who kept their weapons trained on the vehicle.
Morrow said one officer panned his shotgun at the car as it moved by, and when the driver's window was directly in front of the officer's gun, about five feet from the muzzle, the officer fired another shot.
"I couldn't believe I was watching what I was seeing--a person shot," said Morrow, a project manager with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. "It looked like something you would see on television. I never saw anyone shot before."
At that moment, Mansfield Montague, a Drug Fair truck driver, was preparing to back up his truck and hitch it to a trailer parked in the alley.
"I started hearing these pops and then these cops are saying, 'Get down! Get down!,' " Montague said. "So I got down and stayed down for a good long time. No way I was getting up."
The suspect's car picked up speed and, apparently out of control, swept by the officers, turned onto Westbard Avenue, leaving a trail of twisted metal, glass and other debris in its wake.
The car ran over the opposite curb in front of a Bowl America building, toppled a tree, flipped onto its side and came to rest with its roof smashed against the bowling alley's brick facade.
When truck driver Montague dared to look up, he said he saw "a bunch of cops aiming their guns on the car."
Police said the suspect threw a handgun out of the car window in surrender. But he remained trapped in the wreckage for half an hour, witnesses said, before he was extricated by police and firefighters. Police declined to comment on whether the suspect had fired the weapon.
Yesterday's robber apparently acted alone. Witnesses said two or three men participated in the previous holdups.
Most of the afternoon and early evening yesterday, the parking lot and alley surrounding the shopping center resounded with the crackle of police walkie-talkies.
Long yellow ribbons were strung up along the Westbard Avenue and the alley to keep bystanders out, as police sifted through the car and retraced the path it had taken.
As the air filled with questions and gasps of astonishment from passersby, truck driver Montague remained dazed.
"That trailer ain't a month old," he said, pointing to it and the three bullet holes along its side. "My boss ain't gonna be happy."
Police, meanwhile, interviewed bank employes, barricaded the bowling alley off and forbade anyone from it to exit. There were a number of patrons in the 34-lane bolwing alley at the time, including a group of retarded people.
Manager Lee Levey allowed customers to bowl for free, served free coffee and doughnuts and played "Hail to the Redskins" on the alley's music system.
Washington Post staff writers Chip Brown, Angus Phillips and Joseph D. Whitaker also contributed to this story.