Grand Forks man suspect in Gilby bank robbery

A tip from an Argyle, Minn., man, and the purchase of some hot dogs were key clues that led investigators to a Grand Forks man who they think was one of two men who robbed a Gilby bank of more than $50,000 at gunpoint.

Clifton Patterson
Currently jailed in Mississippi

A tip from an Argyle, Minn., man, and the purchase of some hot dogs were key clues that led investigators to a Grand Forks man who they think was one of two men who robbed a Gilby bank of more than $50,000 at gunpoint.

FBI agents allege Clifton Patterson, 63, is the black man seen holding a handgun in security camera photos in the Bremer Bank robbery, according to federal court documents.

Patterson is in jail in Mississippi on unrelated charges; the FBI is still looking for the second bank robber.

In court documents unsealed Tuesday, FBI investigators give a clearer picture of how they say they cracked the case.

Two strangers walked into the bank in the city 30 miles northwest of Grand Forks on the afternoon of May 26. The two large men - one black, one white - pointed guns at the only employee and told her to get down on the ground, according to an FBI affidavit filed June 2 in U.S. District Court seeking a search warrant.


The men wore ski masks, but pushed them up, allowing their faces to be seen on security camera photos. The black man held a handgun, the white man a shotgun.

Local customer Duane Hunter walked in on the robbery, turned around and fled to the nearby farm implement dealership and the sheriff's office was called.

The FBI says the men took about $50,000 from the bank's vault and more from the teller's till. The vault and the till each contained five $20 bills with recorded serial numbers, known as "bait money," according to the affidavit. During the robbery, the black man took off a sweatshirt, revealing underneath a T-shirt with the lettering on the front, "I (heart) .38."

The robbers handcuffed the woman while she lay on the floor but when they left, she got up and caught a glimpse of the getaway vehicle.

The Jeep Compass - stolen from Corwin Chrysler in Fargo - was later found next to St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Honeyford, according to the affidavit.

The FBI quickly released images of the two men from the bank's security cameras.

On May 29, a man from Argyle called the FBI to report that, on May 25, he saw a large black man with an "I (heart) .38" shirt like the one in the robbery photos near the Hugo's Wine & Spirits store at 1325 S. Columbia Road in Grand Forks.

The FBI got security camera video from the store and found images it says show Patterson, wearing the same distinctive T-shirt, buying a pint of vodka two different times on May 25, paying with cash. In a third instance, Patterson and a woman parked outside the store and she went in to buy a six-pack of beer while he bought hot dogs, buns and root beer in the next-door grocery store, using what appears to be a credit card. Through Hugo's, the FBI learned the groceries were bought using a food-stamps card issued by Grand Forks County Social Services to one Clifton Patterson. His apartment at 2505 13th Ave. S. is next door to the Hugo's stores.


FBI agents searched Patterson's apartment on June 3 looking for the money, clothing worn in the robbery, cell phones, the shotgun, cigars, vodka bottles, beer cans and keys to the Jeep Compass.

A neighbor said Patterson moved in about two months ago.

Patterson has warrants for his arrest in Grand Forks County for theft of property and unauthorized used of a motor vehicle. The warrants are dated June 5 and involve the Jeep stolen from Corwin Chrysler.

Patterson was jailed in Grand Forks in October, awaiting extradition to Mississippi on a grand larceny charge. But Mississippi officials did not retrieve him and he was released, a jail official said.

In October, Patterson gave Grand Forks jail officials his address as Oxford, Miss.

Dennis Peeks, a correctional officer at the Prentiss County (Miss.) Jail, said police arrested Patterson without incident in Booneville, Miss., at about 3 a.m. June 5 for public drunkenness and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Patterson, who remains in jail in Booneville, has refused to waive his right to a court hearing on whether he can be extradited to North Dakota to face the car theft charges in Grand Forks County. Peter Welte, Grand Forks County state's attorney, said his office is seeking a governor's warrant to force Patterson's return from Mississippi.

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