The FBI has taken an employee of Wachovia Bank in Red Oak into custody in relation to the robbery of the bank Thursday afternoon.

According to a Red Oak Police Department press release, the female employee was taken into custody after authorities questioned all employees who exited the bank after what was thought to be a possible hostage situation.

“FBI crisis negotiation members then made phone contact with bank personnel and agreed on a surrender and exit plan. FBI SWAT team members assisted all persons from the bank. They were then transported to the Red Oak Police Department,” the press release said. “FBI interviewed all bank employees. It was determined by the FBI that a bank employee was a possible suspect in the robbery. She was then placed into custody. All other bank employees were released by the FBI.”

The robbery occurred at 2 p.m. Thursday, but was preceded by a car chase of a suspicious person that had been reported at Wachovia Bank and Prosperity Bank on Thursday, June 21.

“On June 21, the Red Oak Police Department received information from Wachovia Bank of a suspicious person inside their bank. The subject was described as a black male wearing sunglasses and a ball cap. When asked (by a bank employee) if he needed assistance, he stated no,” the press release said. “The subject exited the bank. A Wachovia employee attempted to get his license plate number. The sub-ject was driving a late model Chevy Impala with no license plates on the front or rear of the vehicle.”

The press release states that the subject drove west on Ovilla Road and was reported at Prosperity Bank a short time later. The department alerted surrounded agencies to the events and descriptions of the suspect and car. The department placed officers on surveillance at each of the banks the next day, Friday, June 22, and offered bank officials the option to have security at their locations.

On Thursday, June 28, the Red Oak Police Department received a call from the bank manager at Wachovia Bank reporting the same suspect was on the premises. When in route to the bank, officers spotted the suspect’s vehicle traveling westbound on Ovilla Road.

“Red Oak officers turned around on the suspect’s vehicle and attempted to initiate a traffic stop. The suspect refused to stop and a pursuit ensued. The suspect continued west on Ovilla Road, then turned north on Houston School Road. The suspect then turned west on Cedar Ridge, continuing around several corners and coming to a stop after crashing into a fence at 415 Oak Dell,” the press release said. “The black male suspect was taken into custody without incident. The suspect advised Red Oak officers that a Wachovia employee was involved. He further stated that a second suspect may still be at Wachovia Bank.”

Further questioning revealed that the plan was for the two suspects to meet with a third person at the Wal-Mart in Lancaster.

“The suspect gave a description of all suspects, including the name of a Wachovia employee. The suspect information along with the car he was driving was given to Lancaster Police Department,” the press release said. “A few minutes later, Lancaster PD located a subject and vehicle fitting the description given. The subject was taken into custody and later transported to the Red Oak Police Department. During an interview conducted by the FBI, it was determined that this subject was not involved in this incident and was later released.”

While officers were at the scene with the first suspect, the Red Oak Police Department received a call that Wachovia Bank had just been robbed.

“Once Red Oak officers arrived at Wachovia Bank, a perimeter was set in place. The information given by the suspect in custody led officers to believe that there could possibly be other suspects in the bank. For the safety of the citizens in the bank, entry was not made at the time until further information could be ascertained,” the press release said. “The FBI was then contacted by the Red Oak Police Department and all information was given to the FBI agent in charge. Red Oak Police officers, along with assisting agencies, were instructed to maintain the perimeter until the arrival of the FBI.”

During this time, the Red Oak Police Department and other agencies worked to shut down traffic on Ovilla Road, shutting down eastbound traffic immediately.

“We only have a few officers for the city anyway and it took a couple of minutes to get them over there. Every resource we had was on the bank and trying to contain the area,” said detective Boyd Brock with the Red Oak Police Department. “It probably took about 15 minutes to shut down west bound traffic. The Department of Public Safety came on the scene and blocked traffic at Ovilla Road and 342.”

With the FBI on the way to the scene, a Red Oak Police officer successfully made contact with a person inside Wachovia Bank.

“We responded with our SWAT team and FBI bomb technicians,” said Lori Bailey with the FBI-Dallas Field Office. “Once it’s determined that there is a potential hostage situation, it has to be treated as such from the beginning to the end.”

At the arrival of authorities, seven people were inside the bank, including customers and Wachovia employees.

“We made contact with individuals of the bank and we were able to extract everyone safely from the bank,” Bailey said. “We determined there was no hostage situation. After we extracted everyone from the bank, we conducted a safety sweep. There was information that there was potentially an explosive device in the bank.”

The FBI did not find any explosive devices in the bank.

E-mail Mandy at mandy.bourgeois@elliscountychronicle.com