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Fargo man accused in gunpoint robbery

Denver Tergesen

A Fargo man could face robbery and vehicle theft charges after Detroit Lakes, Minn., police arrested him as a suspect in a Thursday morning Fargo bank heist.

Denver Lee Tergesen, 24, of Fargo, is suspected of robbing south Fargo's First Community Credit Union at gunpoint, said Fargo Police Sgt. Jeff Skuza. After the robbery, Tergesen allegedly stole a vehicle left unlocked and running at a south Fargo McDonald's and made his way east on U.S. Highway 10.

Skuza said Tergesen, an Iraq War veteran, had been arrested three times in Cass and Clay counties since 2005.

North Dakota court records show in 2005 Tergesen was convicted of burglary, two counts of felony theft and one count of felony forgery or counterfeiting. The last three counts were deemed misdemeanors. Less than two months ago, Tergesen lost a $1,500 collection lawsuit against him.

In a 2003 Forum story about a North Dakota National Guard deployment, Tergesen said that before enlisting in the Army, he was a freshman at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton. He was studying to become an elementary teacher.

According to Skuza, a man entered the Credit Union, at 1801 45th St. S., shortly after 11 a.m. He was carrying a handgun and had a scarf partly concealing his face. He left through the front entrance with a sum of money police didn't disclose.

"He got away with some cash, but we're not releasing how much," Skuza said.

The suspect escaped in a red vehicle that, according to witnesses at the scene, was parked around the corner, on the west side of the strip mall. Police described the suspect as a 6-foot-tall, slim, white male, wearing a blue hooded sweater and khaki pants.

On Tuesday, a man described as 6-foot-tall robbed a Jamestown, N.D., bank at gunpoint. But police do not believe the Fargo suspect was involved in that Gate City Bank branch robbery. The suspect in that robbery appeared to be a heavier-set man, and the weapon and disguise he used do not match those of the Fargo suspect.

On Thursday, police say there was at least one customer in First Community Credit Union at the time of the robbery, but no one was harmed. The FBI is involved in the investigation as well.

Fargo police eventually found the red Pontiac getaway vehicle witnesses had described near 40th Street South. They established that Tergesen was driving the vehicle at that time, which led to identifying him as a suspect. While police were searching the neighborhood, a vehicle was stolen at the McDonald's at 4501 38th St. S.

Investigators learned Tergesen was heading east along Highway 10 and alerted Minnesota authorities. Detroit Lakes police arrested him that afternoon.

"He got caught in the stolen car," Skuza said.

Tergesen was being held at the Becker County Jail in Detroit Lakes on Thursday night.

Cash believed to be from the robbery was recovered in Fargo and Detroit Lakes, Skuza said, but he wouldn't elaborate where.

Wayne Rheault, co-owner of Meats by John and Wayne next door to the credit union, said a customer had told him she had seen a tall, thin man dash out of the bank, sprint around the building and jump in the driver's seat of a red car parked across from a Dumpster that Fargo police searched later that morning.

Immediately after the robbery, a credit union teller ran into the meat store, said employee Jason Aamodt.

"She was just frantic, and she couldn't catch her breath," he said. "She said, 'We just got robbed at gunpoint.' "

Aamodt said he ran outside through an employee entrance by the Dumpster and saw a red Pontiac drive off north toward 17th Avenue.