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Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist recounts how he and other law enforcement officers apprehended a bank robbery suspect in a north Moorhead neighborhood Tuesday afternoon. Authorities said the red car in the background is believed to be the getaway car used in the robbery and that the car was stolen from Barnesville, Minn. Bergquist said the suspect apparently picked a random driveway to pull into before fleeing on foot. Dave Olson / The Forum

Clay sheriff tackles armed suspect linked to robberies at bank, Stop-N-Go

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MOORHEAD - When Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist saw the suspected bank robber running toward him, the man spotted him at the same moment and jumped over a fence into a yard in north Moorhead.

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Bergquist didn't have to be so hasty. He used a gate to enter the yard and approach his winded quarry.

"He (the suspect) was getting pretty tired by then," Bergquist said. "I hadn't been running, so that's where it ended."

Bergquist used what he described as a bear hug to tackle the man to the ground.

When officers searched the suspect, identified by Fargo police as Abraham Clifford Wilson, 46, they found a gun on him, according to Bergquist, who along with other area law enforcement officers took part in a manhunt after the Cornerstone Bank, 2627 S. University Drive in Fargo, was robbed earlier in the afternoon.

The holdup was reported at 1:40 p.m., about 20 minutes after Fargo police issued a news release naming Wilson as a suspect in Sunday's armed robbery at the Stop-N-Go at 3200 12th Ave. N. in Fargo.

"I think if you look at that picture from the Stop-N-Go (robbery), it looks exactly like him," Bergquist said of the man he helped capture, who has a prior conviction for bank robbery in Fargo.

Bergquist gave credit to dispatchers for helping get the word out quickly about the suspected getaway car in the bank robbery, a red hatchback.

Dilworth police officer John Shorey was driving on Highway 10 not long after the bank robbery was reported when he spotted a red hatchback heading toward Glyndon.

Shorey radioed for backup, and when deputies joined him they attempted to stop the car.

Instead of pulling over, the driver made a U-turn on Highway 10 before taking off on a rural road.

Authorities said the suspect car reached 100 mph before officers were able to place stop-sticks in its path.

After that, speeds dropped to about 40 mph, according to Bergquist, who said the chase came to end when the suspect car pulled into the driveway of a home near the intersection of 28th Street and Fifth Avenue north in Moorhead, where the driver took off on foot.

Bergquist said that's when he came on the scene, having followed the chase over his radio.

"They (other officers) said he was running through the yards and then all of a sudden there he was, running towards me," Bergquist said. "So then, I thought it was time to end it."

Bergquist said Wilson was cooperative but silent during his arrest.

According to Fargo police, a handgun was displayed during the bank robbery and the suspect fled in a two-door, red hatchback with scrapes and dings and black pinstripes on the fender and rocker-panel areas.

A car closely matching that description was in police possession following Wilson's arrest. Bergquist said the car was reported stolen in Barnesville.

Court records show Wilson has a criminal history that includes a federal conviction for bank robbery.

Wilson pleaded guilty in October 2003 in U.S. District Court to robbing the US Bank branch at 3802 13th Ave. S. in Fargo earlier that year.

A criminal indictment had charged Wilson with robbing the same bank about three years earlier, but that count of bank robbery was dropped in exchange for the guilty plea.

Wilson also has a 1989 conviction in Clay County District Court for making terroristic threats.

Within five years of that conviction, he was convicted of stealing a vehicle in Otter Tail County and convicted of felony theft in Clay County, court records show.

In 1997, Wilson was charged in Cass County District Court with the armed robbery of a south Fargo service station.

A North Dakota State Hospital evaluation concluded Wilson was not responsible for that robbery because of severe mental illness. Cass County prosecutors subsequently dropped the armed robbery charge.

Wilson also has a conviction in U.S. District Court of being a felon in possession of a handgun.

When the US Bank was first robbed in 2000, Wilson was living in a Fargo halfway house, serving time for a probation violation, court records say.

Fargo police said Tuesday that Wilson, who does not have a permanent address, currently has an active federal probation warrant for his arrest.

In Sunday's Stop-N-Go robbery, Fargo police said they believe Wilson entered the front door of the store about 7:40 p.m. Sunday, presented a handgun to the clerk and demanded money.

No shots were fired and no one was injured, Lt. Joel Vettel said.

The robber took about $205 from the store, Vettel said. It wasn't yet clear on Tuesday how much was taken in the bank robbery.

Armed robbery is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years, a $10,000 fine or both.

Vettel said based on videos of both the Stop-N-Go robbery and the Cornerstone Bank robbery, authorities are confident the cases have been solved.

"We're very thankful he's off the streets," Vettel said, adding: "Again, this is another great example of people working really hard to try to take and put these people behind bars as quickly as possible and we're certainly thankful that happened today and nobody was hurt."

Reporters Mike Nowatzki and Erik Burgess contributed to this report.

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