Wells Fargo honors local hero who helped police capture bank robber
SPOKANE — December 20, 2000
Wells Fargo, a company with a tradition of tirelessly tracking down bandits such as the infamous Black Bart, honored a local man today for helping in such an effort.
Wells Fargo officially thanked Brian Millard, a 40-year-old local resident whose bravery and assistance led to the capture of a bank robber earlier this year in Spokane.
In a brief ceremony today at the Wells Fargo Town & Country banking store where the robbery took place, Wells Fargo executives presented Millard with a $5,000 reward and other gifts.
Also participating in the ceremony were representatives of the Spokane Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Wells Fargo could not hold the event until after the suspect was found guilty and sentenced. Woodson F. Swindell, 52, originally of Edmond, Okla., pled guilty on July 11 in Federal District Court in Spokane. He was sentenced on Nov. 16 to 21 months in federal prison.
Robbery was May 15
Millard had arrived at the Town & Country banking store at 6228 N. Monroe St. on May 15 after Swindell was already inside. Millard noticed a suspicious man exiting the bank. Upon learning that a robbery had just taken place, Millard decided to follow Swindell.
"As I took off across the parking lot, I had my cell phone in my hand. He was about halfway down the block so I ran back to my pickup," said Millard, a self-employed home builder.
Millard followed the robber for about a block and saw him get into a pickup truck and start driving. Using his cell phone, Millard called 911 and informed a Police dispatcher that he was following Swindell.
"I really don't know why I did it. I guess one thing is that I hate thieves. I don't have any sympathy for them," said Millard. "It was just a reaction more than anything."Back to Top
He kept following Swindell's vehicle as the robber drove through a number of residential areas. He remained on the phone with police, keeping them apprised of Swindell's every turn.
"I tried to keep a way's back the whole time. I didn't want him to run," said Millard. "I knew I wouldn't chase him if he ran because I didn't want to put anyone else into danger."
An unmarked police car joined Millard in the pursuit. The chase concluded 15 minutes after it had started when about 15 police cars surrounded Swindell's vehicle.
"That was pretty impressive to see the way they handled it. Instantly they all hit their sirens and just swarmed him," said Millard.
Millard remained on the phone with the police dispatcher until the arrest was completed. It was only then that he realized the significance of his actions, he said.
"It really didn't hit me until after the fact," Millard recalled. "When I saw the way the cops reacted, with shotguns and pistols, that was when it hit me. I had been perfectly calm. But then I looked down at my hands and they were trembling."
All of the stolen money (a small sum) was recovered.
"The personal safety of our customers and employees is our utmost concern so we certainly don't expect our customers to get involved in our efforts to track down bank robbers," said Gary Garrett of Spokane, Wells Fargo's Community Banking District Manager and Senior Vice President. "In this instance, Brian was able to assist the police without putting himself in danger and we're extremely grateful to him."
Since the Wells Fargo Bank Robbery Reward Program started in 1991, the bank has paid 131 rewards totaling $638,000 to eyewitnesses and anonymous informants. This has helped lead to the identification, arrest and conviction of 187 bank robbers.
"Considering that most bank robbers commit more than five bank robberies before they are apprehended, our reward program has potentially prevented hundreds of additional robberies," said Dan Kieling, Wells Fargo's Security manager for Washington.
Founded in 1852, Wells Fargo & Company is a diversified financial services company with $263.5 billion in assets, providing banking, insurance, investments, mortgage and consumer finance from more than 5,700 stores and the Internet (www.wellsfargo.com ) across North America and elsewhere internationally.