March 13, 1997 in Nation/World

Terrified Guard Fled Rampage She’s Found In Bank Basement Day After Gunman Killed Three

Associated Press
 
Tags:robbery

A bank guard was found cowering in the building’s basement Wednesday, more than a day after she was threatened by a gunman during a rampage that left four people dead.

Virene Brown, who was not armed, was found by a maintenance worker in the boiler room of the Comerica bank and taken to a hospital. She was frightened, upset and dehydrated, police said.

“The Lord was so good. … He gave her strength,” said sister Alma Brown. She said all her sister could remember of Tuesday’s ordeal was that the gunman put a shotgun to her head.

Police Chief Isaiah McKinnon said the gunman pointed the gun at Brown’s head and said he was going to kill her, but somehow he was distracted, and she fled into the basement before anyone in the bank was shot.

“He turned in another direction and she ran. It was a life-preserving measure for herself,” McKinnon said. “She didn’t know what had occurred. In all sincerity, she was extremely traumatized. … She didn’t know if she was in the building or what was going on.”

McKinnon said his officers never searched the building after the shootings because they believed that Brown had run away from the area and because there was only one gunman, who by the end of the rampage was dead. Also, he said, police had been in the basement interviewing employees and saw no reason to go into the boiler room.

Brown’s car, purse, coat and other items were left behind after the shootings. Her fiance had gone to the bank earlier Wednesday looking for some news of her, saying she hadn’t come home or called.

“Ain’t no way somebody should just disappear like that,” said Michael Debardelaben.

A St. John Hospital spokeswoman said Ms. Brown was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome. At her family’s request, no more information was released.

Police said the gunman, Allen Griffin Jr., 21, was despondent over legal, marital and money troubles.

Dressed in gray-and-white camouflage, he went into the bank Tuesday morning and announced a holdup. But instead of taking money, he shot three people, killing two bank employees, and ordered everyone else inside to sing the Lord’s Prayer with him.

He took an elderly man hostage outside and fatally shot him in the head before being killed in a barrage of police gunfire.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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