By KATIE HUMPHREY, Star Tribune
Last update: January 7, 2010 - 3:50 PM
A Minneapolis police officer was pulled over by an Apple Valley cop minutes before a robbery at a nearby Wells Fargo bank on Wednesday, a break that eventually led to his arrest in connection with a series of robberies in the area, according to federal charges filed Thursday.
Timothy Edward Carson, 28, was booked into the Dakota County Jail early Thursday morning on probable cause of first-degree aggravated robbery and appeared in federal court in St. Paul on Thursday afternoon, charged with bank robbery.
The Wells Fargo robbery, committed at 9:16 a.m. Wednesday, was the latest of four in the city that Apple Valley police believed were committed by the same person.
The charges say Carson was pulled over for having no visible front license plate on his vehicle, a white Mitsubishi Galant, at 8:37 a.m. Carson identified himself as a Minneapolis police officer and was allowed to go on his way.
At 9:17, the officer who'd pulled Carson over was called to the bank on the robbery report. The officer saw Carson's vehicle at 9:22 on a road near the bank.
"That was the break in the case," said Apple Valley Police Chief Scott Johnson.
Carson was late for his shift that morning, and a supervisor called him at 9:30 a.m. to ask why he wasn't at work yet, the complaint says. He arrived at work about 10 a.m.
When officers with the Apple Valley police and the FBI questioned him Wednesday evening, he at first denied any involvement but eventually confessed to the bank robbery, and he later also confessed to a series of other robberies in Dakota and Hennepin counties, the criminal complaint says.
After he was interviewed at the Minneapolis Police Special Operations Division headquarters, he led investigators to a trash can outside, where they found clothing, a ski mask, gloves and a black backpack that matched the description of those used by the robber, according to the complaint.
A search of his locker at the Special Operations Division turned up a gun and cash that had been taken in the robbery, the complaint says. And a pair of shoes surrendered by Carson matched footprints found between the bank and where a security camera at a Target store near the bank recorded a man running past to a light-colored car shortly after the robbery.
Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said he was shocked by the arrest.
"We spend a tremendous amount of our resources, our time and our energy to try to find the finest candidates for the job of police officer," he said. "That being said, we do have a few that fail."
And that, he said, tarnishes "the badge of the Minneapolis Police Department."
That was echoed by Minneapolis Police Federation President John Delmonico, who called Carson's alleged crimes "disgusting and a disgrace to the badge. It's unbelievable."
Carson has served on the force since Jan. 8, 2007 and is a member of the department's SWAT team assigned to its Third Precinct, Delmonico said. He has no disciplinary record with the department, and his SWAT unit received a citation for excellence last year.
Johnson said Apple Valley police were disappointed that their investigation led them to a fellow police officer. "But we don't want this to reflect negatively on the Minneapolis police, who bent over backwards to help us in this case," he said.
Series of robberies
Apple Valley police said they have connected Carson to a series of robberies over the past month, although charges have not yet been filed in cases other than the bank robbery.
In the robbery of the Wells Fargo branch, at 15574 Pilot Knob Road, the robber was "pretty brazen," said FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson.
The robber briefly sat down at a computer in the lobby for online banking, before jumping onto the teller counter and showing a semiautomatic handgun, Wilson said.
He pointed the gun at three tellers and ordered them to keep their heads down and hands up, Wilson said. Later the robber told three tellers to put cash in a black backpack.
Previously, last Wednesday morning, a man entered the CVS Pharmacy on Dove Trail. Armed with a handgun, he confronted the clerk and took an undisclosed amount of money from the cash register.
Early Tuesday morning, a man walked up to a woman making a deposit in the drive up depository at the U.S. Bank branch on Garrett Avenue, brandished a handgun and demanded her money.
Forty minutes later, a man robbed the Quick Stop convenience store on W. 150th Street.
In all of the cases, the robber was described as a white male in his 20s, wearing a dark colored jacket and ski mask, armed with a handgun.
Two recent robberies in Rosemount, one a purse-snatching and one a robbery of a Marathon gas station, may also been linked to Carson, authorities said. And he could also be a suspect in robberies in Minneapolis, said Delmonico, of the Police Federation.
Staff writers David Chanen, Bob Von Sternberg, Abby Simons and Vince Tuss contributed to this report.
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