Tellers Tell Story 9 Years After Officer Lost Life In Bank Robbery

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UPDATED: Thursday February 27, 2014 9:40 AM

The capital city is seeing its highest number of bank robbers in 6 years.
 
CrimeTracker 10 looked at trends in bank robberies by analyzing hundreds of reports.

Since January, CrimeTracker 10 uncovered 14 banks that were held-up by robbers since the start of 2014. The last time Central Ohio saw this many bank robberies by this time of year was in 2008.

One teller talked to 10TV about her experience.

"If a robber really wants to get you, and they're really casing out the bank - they could do it," says Heather Clifton who speaks from experience.
 
On January 6, 2005, Clifton was one of several Fifth Third bank employees who found themselves caught in the crossfire of a take-over style robbery in East Columbus.
 
Clifton describes the moment she saw the bank robber, Daryl Lawrence, walk in to the branch on East Broad Street.
 
"He had a hood on, his head down. I didn't think anything of it until he opened up the door, and said 'This is a robbery. Get in there, get down on the ground, or I'll shoot you,'" recalls Clifton.
 
When asked how close the robber was to her, Clifton replied, "The gun was to my head."
 
For the first time since that cold winter day nine years ago, Clifton and two other former Fifth Third bank employees chose to speak to CrimeTracker 10 about the events that unfolded to honor the Columbus Police officer who lost his life trying to stop the armed robbery.
 
Officer Bryan Hurst was working special duty at that bank.  He was a new father with a wife and six-month-old baby daughter at home.
 
"He definitely saved our lives," says Clifton.
 
Michelle Johnson was in one of the Fifth Third bank offices when she first heard the commotion from Daryl Lawrence pushing his way into the bank through the glass doors.
 
"I could hear the yelling and thought someone needed help," said Johnson. "I just heard the first gunfire and went under my desk."
 
Johnson's voice cracked as she relived the next 22 seconds.
 
"Then it was just silence... and the silence was scarier than the noise," she says.
 
"I can't explain after that, the emotions, the fear and everything else because it's almost like you black out. You're awake, you're conscious of what's going on, but you don't hear anything else," recalled Johnson.
 
But Johnson does remember seeing Officer Bryan Hurst take cover by a teller counter when Lawrence first fired off shots. Federal prosecutors say Lawrence saw the officer and lunged over the teller counter, shooting at point blank range. Hurst came out from behind the teller counter and returned fire before he collapsed.
 
"He (Hurst) was aimed and ready, he was in that stance, so I thought, Bryan's out there - we're ok, we're going to be ok," says Johnson.
 
Hurst's actions saved lives, but cost him his own. One of the bullets fired by Lawrence hit the officer in the neck, just above his bullet proof vest.
 
Michelle Johnson says not a day goes where she doesn't think about Officer Hurst or his family.
 
"We look at our kids, we look at our families, and we thank god and we thank Bryan, what he gave up, protecting us," says Johnson.
 
Both Clifton and Johnson say they are speaking out to honor Officer Hurst's memory, but also to tell bank customers to always be on alert and not be afraid to speak up.
 
"If you see something that looks suspicious.. Help the bank out, report it to the police department," says Clifton.

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