The scruffy-bearded, 50-something bank robber left a package on the counter as he walked out of the Bank of America branch on Delaware Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda on Thursday afternoon.
It looked as if it contained sticks of dynamite, a witness told police, touching off nearly two hours of high tension.
Delaware was closed in both directions north of Sheridan Drive.
Nearby schools were put on lockdown as parents were told on automated messages to stay away from the campuses.
The Bomb Squad from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office was called, and a remote-controlled robot was dispatched to investigate the suspicious package.
By 3 p.m., police determined that there was no danger to the public.
But the bank robber remained on the loose Thursday evening.
Police said the bank robber approached a teller at about 1 p.m. and then left the package on a counter before fleeing on foot, police said during a news conference.
Someone called 911. Police arrived.
The bank was cleared out as the Bomb Squad guided an explosives-detection robot inside the bank branch at 3588 Delaware.
As a precaution, Delaware was shut down to traffic between Sheridan and Thorncliff Road. Hoover Elementary and Middle schools, Kenmore Middle and Kenmore West High School, as well as Mount St. Mary’s Academy and St. Andrew’s Country Day School were put on lockdown right around dismissal time.
Parents of children in the schools were alerted to the situation via a robocall that was sent out and message posted on the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District website, telling them that the schools were on lockdown:
“This means no one can enter or exit these buildings and no students will be dismissed until police authorization is given to lift the lockout,” the message said. “Please do not arrive at the schools until further information is given.
Additional messages will be sent out as soon as information becomes available. Up-to-date information will also be available at www.ktufsd.org.”
But by 3 p.m. students were allowed to go home, school buses were delayed just 15 minutes, and Delaware was reopened.
Tonawanda police said they were working with the sheriff’s Bomb Squad as well as the Amherst police K-9 Unit in searching for the suspect.
Police did not say what they found inside the package.
Town of Tonawanda Police Capt. John Scott said that the robot was deployed to make sure the situation was safe and that the schools were locked down as a precautionary measure.
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