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Law enforcement personnel confer at the front door of the Bremer Bank in Gilby, N.D., after it was robbed early Tuesday afternoon. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Gilby bank robbed

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Duane Hunter had intentions of making a deposit at the bank here Tuesday afternoon, but a masked man toting a sawed-off shotgun put a crimp in that plan.

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"I saw him, and I went back out the way I came," he said. "I didn't walk -- I bolted."

When Hunter entered the Bremer branch on Third and Main, the robber -- a white man standing about 6 feet tall, weighing 230 to 240 pounds -- trained the gun on him.

"You don't think, you just react," he said. "My reaction was to get out from in front of that shotgun."

The robber told him to, "Get on the floor!" but he was already out the door.

"It was a moot point by then," the 49-year-old farmer said.

Hunter dashed around the corner, ducked behind some parked pickups and "scooted over to the back of the implement dealership as hard as I could go."

The man with the shotgun made the teller get on the floor with her hands on her head, and a second robber -- a black man who stood about 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed about 250 pounds -- entered the bank, went directly to the vault and put cash into a garbage bag, the FBI said.

The second robber, who was armed with a handgun, emptied the teller's till into the bag before handcuffing the teller's hands behind her back and leaving her face down on the floor, the FBI said. Authorities did not say how much money was stolen.

The men drove off in a silver Jeep Liberty with Minnesota plates. They last were seen heading south on County Road 2.

Once notified of the robbery, lawmen from various agencies stationed themselves around the region to watch for the men, Chief Deputy Mike Fonder said. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol used two aircraft to aide in the search, Fonder said.

The two robbers were on the lam as of Tuesday evening.

Investigators from the sheriff's office and the FBI processed the bank for trace evidence and fingerprints, Fonder said. The red-brick building was cordoned off with yellow tape, and a sign on the door read, "The bank is temporarily closed."

Bremer Bank CEO Russ Erickson said the branch will remain closed today.

"Our No. 1 concern is for the people that were in the bank at the time," Erickson said. "I'm very grateful that no one was hurt."

During the robbery, the teller was the only employee in the bank. Such a circumstance, Erickson said, raises his company's concerns about security.

"We do have adequate security for the location," he said, but did not elaborate.

Hunter said he's lived his whole life in the town of about 250 people and lives next door to the teller. After spending much of his life as a bachelor, Hunter was married about two years ago and now has a newborn son.

"All these years, I finally have a nice family -- I almost get shot on the main street of Gilby," he said.

Hunter recalled the bank being robbed two other times in his lifetime.

Richard Carlson, owner of the town's hardware store, was busy unloading a truck when the hold up went down.

"I can't believe nobody chased them," Carlson said. "If I'd have known about it, I would have chased them."

Authorities ask that anyone with information about the robbery contact the FBI at (612) 376-3200 or the sheriff's office at (701) 780-8280.

The FBI said there is a reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the robbers.

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