ELFERS, Fla. – A Pasco deputy was in the right place at the right time Tuesday. Sgt. Paul Downey, a 12-year veteran of the force, was able to catch a suspected bank robber and attempted carjacker just minutes after it all happened.
Deputies say Elias Chappanoff walked into the Wells Fargo on State Road 54 at Madison Road acting like he had a gun under his shirt. He got cash and ran to look for a ride.
The Wells Fargo shares a parking lot with the Winn-Dixie grocery store. A woman had just pulled in to do some grocery shopping when Chappanoff frantically started banging on her car window.
The victim thought he needed help and cracked open her window.
She spoke exclusively to 10News about the ordeal.
"He just kept trying to get into my car and saying he needed a ride, he needs a ride and that's when everyone was screaming to not let him in my car because he has a gun,” she said.
When she wouldn’t let him into her car, deputies say, Chappanoff went up to another car and told the passengers, :You’re going to get me out of here." They were able to lock him out.
At that point Sgt. Downey spotted him. Chappanoff took off and ran across four lanes of SR 54. Downey followed. He tackled him and arrested him.
Sgt. Downey says he didn’t hesitate despite believing Chappanoff really had a gun.
"It's what our job is. It's a dangerous position that we're in, but it doesn't cross your mind. Your job is to catch the bad guy,” said Sgt. Downey.
Investigators never found a gun.
Chappanoff was jailed on charges of bank robbery and attempted carjacking.