WINTHROP — A Baptist missionary with a football background made a key tackle this afternoon, helping police apprehend a suspect in a foiled Manchester bank robbery.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police, said Trooper Dane Wing saw a young man with a mask and confronted him in the parking lot before he entered the Bank of Maine at U.S. Route 202 and Pond Road.

The suspect took off west along U.S. Route 202 in an SUV, leading police on a high speed chase, which ended on Main Street in Winthrop after the SUV struck a tow truck and a UPS truck. The SUV driver then fled on foot.

Police wouldn’t confirm the suspect’s name by midafternoon.

The most dramatic scenes occurred in Winthrop in front of business owners and noontime diners at Pete’s Roast Beef, where heads turned at the sound of squealing tires.

“Within 30 seconds we saw the vehicle smash into the back of a UPS truck,” said Amber Hinkley of Winthrop, who was eating lunch there with friends.

“He stopped, opened the door, and evaded police and ran toward the Winthrop Health Center. By the time he got there he had been taken down.”

Jack Simpson, 19, of Memphis, Tenn., saw the man running down the sidewalk being chased by police.

“Somebody yelled out, ‘Get him,’ so I tackled him so the cops wouldn’t have to keep chasing him,” Simpson said. “I played football for my high school so I pretty much knew how to take him down.”
Simpson is in Winthrop as a summer missionary with the Maine Baptist Association, through the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

“Our supervisor told us that Maine was one of the safest states in America,” he said. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

He bruised his face, he said, when he ran into a car mirror.

Laurie Tompkins, owner of Becky’s Second Time Around, saw the police chase and ran next door to Pete’s Roast Beef to warn a mother to get her three children out of the car which was parked in front of the store.

The crash occurred within seconds of the children being brought into the store, Tompkins said.

And she herself had to duck into an alcove to get out of the way of the fleeing man. “I thought he was going to run into me,” she said.

She praised Simpson’s actions.

“I saw him tackle this man and throw him to the ground and wrestle with him until the state cops got there,” Tompkins said. “He is really a hero as far as I’m concerned. We’re really fortunate no one was hurt or killed.”

The story will be updated as more details are confirmed.

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