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THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2007
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Bank customer helps stop gunman

BESSEMER (AP) — Law officers have praised a bank customer who pulled his gun and helped deputies capture a gunman who opened fire during a robbery of a Wachovia branch, killing two tellers and wounding two.

Chris Chappell, who was in the bank Monday morning getting $40 in change on the way to his job in Adger, fled the bank when gunshots rang out, drew a gun for which he has a concealed weapon permit, took cover by his sport utility vehicle and alerted deputies who came up.

The gunman, cornered by Chappell and the deputies when he tried to flee the bank with a hostage, stumbled and was shot by Deputy Alan Rhea.

"It's certainly commendable," Jefferson County Sheriff's Sgt. Randy Christian said. "It's obvious he played a key role in keeping the guy there until we could get there. It's a great testament of someone willing to take action."

"He kept him from escaping, and he gave deputies time to get to the scene," Bill Veitch, chief assistant district attorney, told The Birmingham News in its moment-by-moment account of the robbery and arrest.

Bessemer Mayor Ed May, while calling Chappell a "good Samaritan and a brave individual," added that "I would not encourage anyone to do that."

Chappell, however, said he just went by his instincts.

"I know what's right and what's wrong. There wasn't nothing I could do differently. I'm always going to do what I think is right," Chappell said.

William Merriweather Jr., 30, a 1994 Jackson-Olin High School graduate who also attended Alabama State University and Lawson State Community College, was taken into custody after being shot outside the bank. He was charged with capital murder in the deaths of the two tellers.

According to witnesses and police investigators, the gunman fatally shot Eva Lovelady Hudson, then continued firing down the line of tellers, killing Sheila Prevo.

He shot two other tellers, who survived, while demanding money, and forced bank manager Myron Gooding to open the vault.

Grabbing a bag of money, he left the bank, only to find Chappell waiting.

"I was prepared to shoot," Chappell said.

According to the News account, the gunman threw his hands up and went back inside when he saw Chappell. He eventually came out holding Gooding as a hostage. By then, deputies had arrived and Merriweather was shot and captured.

"I don't think you had time to be scared," said Chappell.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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