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Robbery suspect turns himself in at Gazette

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Ann Marie Ames
Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
— Nikkii Taber said the man accused of robbing a downtown Janesville bank seemed calm as he confessed the crime to her Monday afternoon in the Gazette lobby, 1 S. Parker Drive.

"He just asked me if I would call 911," she said. "I said, 'Sure, why?'"

He answered: "Because I just robbed Johnson Bank," Taber said.

Taber said the man approached her in a very casual, non-threatening manner.

"He was very calm. Super calm," she said. "Just as if he said, 'I want to place a classified ad.'

"I didn't think I heard him right," she added. "I said, 'OK, I'll find someone to help me with that.'"

Police said the man was carrying a Texas ID, is homeless and wanted to go to jail.

"He said he was homeless, and he needed a place to stay, even if it was jail," Sgt. Mark Ratzlaff said.

Police at 3:35 p.m. Monday were dispatched to a report of a robbery at Johnson Bank, 1 S. Main St., Janesville. A man entered the bank and passed a note to a teller who gave him an undisclosed amount of money, according to a news release from the Janesville Police Department.

Police arrested Rahn E. Gearhart, 53, no fixed address, on a charge of robbery by threat of force.

No weapon was displayed during the robbery, and Gearhart was unarmed when police arrested him. He is in custody at the Rock County Jail.

Taber, a personal sales representative at the Gazette, was at her desk in the company's first-floor lobby when Gearhart approached her.

Taber looked for a manager, but all were in a meeting on the second floor.

She motioned her boss, Tom Bradley, out of the meeting and told him what had happened. It was so unbelievable they both wondered if it was some sort of prank.

Downstairs, Bradley escorted Gearhart into a conference room.

"I said, 'So, can you tell me what happened?'" Bradley said. "He said, 'I just robbed a bank.'"

Gearhart showed Bradley a handful of cash, including some $100 bills. Bradley stuck his head out the door to make sure someone had called 911.

When Bradley asked Gearhart why he robbed the bank, Gearhart said he was homeless and had nowhere to go, Bradley said. Gearhart said he wanted a warm meal and some clothes, and he hinted that some people in his life had steered him wrong, Bradley said.

Officers were already looking for a bank robber outside and arrived at the Gazette lobby within minutes.

Neither Taber nor Bradley said they felt threatened by Gearhart, and both said they never saw a weapon. The whole thing was over in less than 25 minutes.

Gearhart told Bradley he went into the Gazette building because it was across the street from the bank.

Last updated: 6:42 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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