Search continues for bank robber

BRIDGEPORT – Law enforcement officials on both sides of the Ohio River are still searching for the man who held up a village bank early Wednesday morning.

The Citizens Bank, 325 Howard St., was robbed at gunpoint shortly after 9:30. It marked the third time this particular bank has been targeted in a little more than two years.

Police are releasing little details about the robbery except for a description of the suspect who is reportedly a male subject between 5-10 and 6-foot tall.

He was said to be wearing a black leather jacket with a hoodie pulled up over his head. He was also wearing blue jeans and black shoes and could have been wearing a ski mask and latex gloves.

Law enforcement officials from all over Belmont County converged on the bank, located at the corner of Howard and DeKalb streets in the Kirkwood neighborhood. They were on the scene within minutes of the alarm being set off by a bank employee.

Dozens of uniformed officers from Bellaire, Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, Powhatan Point and Shadyside joined troopers from the Ohio Highway Patrol and deputies from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office in scouring the adjacent neighborhood, along with the Bridgeport Manor housing complex, the area around Gould Park and an area near the basketball courts on South Lincoln Avenue.

Some officers were seen driving through the neighborhood, while others were seen walking down streets and through alleys and yards searching for any type of evidence they could find.

At one point, officers surrounded on a house on Howard Street, some three blocks west of the bank. However, no one was apprehended. At another point, several cruisers rushed to a white van spotted on Jacquette Street, but that wasn’t the vehicle they were seeking, either.

The bank was locked down immediately after the suspect exited the building. Yellow police tape was placed around the sidewalk and drive-thru area. The bank was closed for the remainder of the day as police and a special agent from the Bureau of Criminal Identification spent much of the day inside going over the crime scene.

The investigation is ongoing.

One police officer said the bank’s proximity is a likely reason it has been targeted so often.

“It’s so close to Interstate 70, Ohio 7 south, Kirkwood Heights Road and the bridge leading to Wheeling Island,” he said.

Just minutes prior to the robbery, a bomb threat was reported on the Bridgeport Schools campus.

Superintendent Ted Downing confirmed that a bomb threat was phoned in around 9 a.m.

“We waited three hours the last time we had a bomb threat,” he said, referring to the time it took authorities to make a clean sweep through the building two weeks ago. “We didn’t want to do that today, so we dismissed all the students early. Some parents are picking up their kids right now. The others are being bussed home.

“We’ll make that day up later on in the year,” he added.

That was the second time in three weeks that the Bridgeport Schools have received a bomb threat.

Authorities have not yet determined if the two incidents are related. No one was injured in either instance.

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