Reporter on-site for robber's second bank heist
The suspect in Monday's Rochester bank robbery returned to the bank Tuesday to rob it again, police say — and was arrested at gunpoint less than 45 minutes later near Coates .
But it was the odd set of circumstances that led to his capture that has people talking, beginning with a TV news reporter who noticed a man walking toward the bank as he prepared to do a live update about Monday's robbery.
It was the suspect, on his way to the second robbery, but Adam Sallet, a reporter with KIMT-TV in Mason City, Iowa, didn't know it — not until a bank employee ran up to him during his live noon broadcast moments later.
"That's the robber," the employee told Sallet. "That's him right there."
It wasn't just Monday's incident the employee was talking about: The same man had indeed just robbed Sterling State Bank again.
Sallet, a 2006 Mayo High School graduate, appeared momentarily stunned, then said, "this is live TV, folks. I have to go here. I have to call 911," and moved off camera to do just that.
Rochester police, who by Tuesday morning believed they'd identified the suspect, were on the scene quickly.
Sallet, said Rochester police Capt. John Sherwin, "obviously had information right away. (Witnesses were) able to provide a vehicle description, which already matched the vehicle we were looking for, so we knew right away that this was very likely the same guy that hit (the bank Monday.)"
Local and federal authorities were interviewing the 36-year-old suspect Tuesday afternoon, Sherwin said.
The route to linking him to the robbery actually began Sunday, when Rochester police received a report of a stolen vehicle, described as a white van with writing on the side. The caller allegedly believed his son, Ryan Russell Liskow, had taken the van.
Tuesday morning, an officer doing follow-up on the vehicle theft report learned the owner's fuel card had been used Monday at a local gas station. A review of the surveillance footage from the business confirmed it was Liskow, Sherwin said, and the officer "quickly realized he looked like the guy who robbed the bank" Monday.
Authorities also learned Liskow was on federal probation for a bank robbery he'd committed in Minneapolis in December 2009. Liskow was recently released from prison, the report says, and had his probation transferred to Rochester on Dec. 7.
That information intensified the search for Liskow in connection with Monday's robbery, Sherwin said — then Sallet's 911 call came in.
A vehicle and suspect description had been sent to the Minnesota State Patrol, Sherwin said, but troopers in the area were unavailable because they were on the scene of a fatal car crash north of Zumbro Falls.
"One of our Rochester officers was on his way back from training in the Twin Cities on (U.S. Highway) 52 when he saw the vehicle going northbound," Sherwin said. "He was in an unmarked vehicle, so he turned around and followed (the suspect) until we could get assistance from Dakota County and the state patrol."
Liskow was arrested at gunpoint south of the House of Coates, near Brandel Drive.
He will remain in custody in Olmsted County, Sherwin said, and will be charged locally, likely by Thursday, before federal prosecutors look at charges.
This morning, Lt. Mike Sadauskis said Liskow was "cooperative with us — not always truthful, but cooperative" during questioning Tuesday night.
"He admitted to both robberies and stealing the vehicle," Sadauskis said, adding that Liskow "obviously has a substance abuse problem."
As a result of his criminal history, Liskow faces 30 years in federal prison if convicted.
So, who tries to rob the same bank two days in a row?
"Someone who obviously thought it was easy the first time," Sherwin said, "got away with it and thought he could the next time, too.
"I mean, he made it 45 miles; if we hadn't had an officer who was paying attention coming back from the Cities..."
Liskow made off with several thousand dollars from Monday's robbery, Sherwin said, and got money again Tuesday. Authorities have recovered evidence in the van to support the case, he said, "but it's still a very preliminary investigation."
According to the reports, Liskow entered the bank about 11 a.m. Monday, when it was empty of customers.
He showed a teller a note demanding money and indicating he was armed, Sherwin said, a tactic he used again Tuesday.
"When he walked in yesterday, the tellers immediately recognized him," Sadauskis said today, "and he said something to the effect of, 'hello, it's me again.'"
No injuries were reported in either burglary.
Sallet, still reeling from the national attention his video has received — millions of views and climbing, featured on The Jimmy Kimmel Show, all national networks, Buzzfeed , theCHIVE and the BBC , among others — said there wasn't a question about whether he should stick with the story or call for help.
"I knew it's important to get the story," he said, "but I know it's also important for the police to know as much information as soon as possible."
After attending daily morning police briefings, he said, "I know that as soon as I know, they should know, because it's key to solving the case."
Sallet is also glad he listened to his instincts. When he saw the man walking toward the bank as he prepared for his broadcast, "I thought he looked very stoic; no emotion."
He saw the door to the bank close as the suspect went inside, but didn't see him leave. His first indication something was wrong was when the employee ran toward him, pointing north.
"I didn't see the robber at first," Sallet said, "but then I turned and saw him" jogging up Bandel Road .
There was never a moment when Sallet thought it might be a hoax.
"I was on edge already," he said, "because that guy was a little suspicious — walking toward a bank — so I just took (the employee) at his word.
"Then I thought, 'holy smokes, that just happened, and I have to report on it and be a witness.'"