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Robbery suspects still at large following armed bank heist

Eve Zuckoff
Falmouth police, acting on a tip, swarmed a Holiday Inn this afternoon, but came up empty-handed.

A multi-agency search continued Thursday night for three armed robbers who tied up employees and held up a Martha’s Vineyard bank.

FBI, state and local police are collaborating on the search, which is right now continuing on the island. The suspects are still large as of 7:30 pm and authorities said they are considered armed and dangerous.

A photo from the bank robbery provided by the Cape and Islands District Attorney's office. All three subjects had this mask on. Anyone with information is asked to please contact Tisbury PD at 508-696-4240 or Trooper Dustin Shaw at 508-693-0545.

Rockland Trust Bank in Vineyard Haven was robbed at gunpoint at around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday by three people in white masks and black hoodies, according to details first reported by the Martha’s Vineyard Times and later confirmed by Tisbury police. The suspects tied up employees and escaped in a car stolen from a teller. It was later found abandoned, police said. No one was injured.

FBI agents and state and local police converged on the Holiday Inn on Jones Road in Falmouth before noon today, eventually closing off the street. They arrived wearing tactical gear in more than three dozen vehicles. K-9 units were also on site. Students at the nearby Morse Pond Elementary School sheltered in place before being bused to Falmouth High School, where they were reunited with parents and guardians.

Amy Vince
Families were instructed to park, wait in line, show photo ID, and fill out a form before picking up their students.

Police were acting on a tip that connected the robbers to the hotel – but after the afternoon-long police action, law enforcement withdrew, saying the suspects were in fact not on the premises.

Dunne said he could not reveal whether the robbers had stayed at the Holiday Inn, or address the nature of the tip.

“We conducted an investigation here and have concluded that the suspects are not here and the investigation will continue on the island,” Dunne told reporters on the steps outside the Holiday Inn around 3:30 p.m.

Many families learned of the news when they received an automated call from Morse Pond Principal Tim Adams.

“Everyone is safe at school,” he said in the message. “No one is allowed in or out for the time being. I will update you when the protocol has been lifted.”

“When you're dealing with armed robbery suspects, you never know what's going to happen. So just under an abundance of caution — they were never in any danger — but we did remove them from the school,” said Falmouth Police Chief Ed Dunne.

Islands schools also went into lockdown, and several banks closed or limited business as a precaution.

Eve Zuckoff
“I was at a chief's meeting when I first saw the text that there was a robbery on the bank," said Falmouth Police Chief Ed Dunne. "I was thinking the thing I think you were all thinking: ‘ Really? You're on an island.’ But they did.”

The Massachusetts State Police took the lead in this investigation and continue to search Martha’s Vineyard.

“I believe the search is on the island,” Dunne said. “Nothing here in Falmouth, other than us watching the boats as we’ve been doing all day.”

Falmouth police continue to monitor the routes the robbers would need to take to get back to the mainland. They could take a “private boat, Steamship Authority, and then there’s the Patriot that takes workers back and forth,” he said. “But all those have been checked.”

Many have speculated online about the state of the investigation and where the robbers may be, which had led to significant confusion. Ultimately, while preparing to leave the scene at the Holiday Inn, Dunne offered the robbers some advice.

“Turn yourself in.”

The robbers are still considered armed and dangerous. This is a developing story and we will have more details.

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.
Steve is Managing Editor of News. He came to WCAI in 2007. He also hosts the weekly News Roundup on Friday mornings and produces The Fishing News.