Kurt Hildebrand

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January 11, 2013
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Rancher describes robbery arrest

Ranch owner Paul Barnes was packing for a trip to California on Jan. 4 when a little white car came up his driveway.

"He said, 'My radiator's overheating, can I get some water?' I told him, 'There's a hydrant over there, go help yourself.' Right about then is when every cop in Douglas County showed up," Barnes said.

That's how Barnes found out that the driver of the vehicle was more than a motorist in distress. He was Jarell Williams, 26, who is accused of robbing the Topsy Lane Bank of America by claiming he had an explosive device duct-taped to his chest.

Barnes said deputies pulled within 100 feet of the barn and had Williams get on the ground.

"They made eye contact with me, but they were intent on their work, they didn't stop for a visit," Barnes said. "Then some time elapsed before they pulled their guns on me and the kid that works for me. They stuffed us into the back of the cop car and it took me 10-15 minutes to convince them who I was."

Barnes has owned the property on the east side of Highway 395 for 18 years and operates a horse training business.

"I let them know I was mad," he said. "If they'd put us all on the ground right off, I could understand, that's protocol. But they didn't, they walked right by me. That's why I'm upset."

Williams was taken into custody within 16 minutes of the robbery after a witness who was listening to the police scanner on her mobile phone heard the vehicle description. She called Douglas 911 dispatch and gave updates on the vehicle's progress down Highway 395.

Undersheriff Paul Howell said he thought Barnes' concerns were reasonable.

"I sympathize with him," Howell said. "Here you are in your own world, then all these people show up, including a bank robber, and they're yelling and pointing guns at you."

Howell said the sheriff's office is offering to pay for damage to Barnes' clothing or property that resulted from the arrest.

"We'll make it right to the extent we can," he said.

But deputies had no way of knowing what they were walking into at the time, Howell said. From their perspective they had someone who allegedly claimed to have an explosive device.

"In that situation, we defend the officers' actions," he said. "They come up the driveway with a bunch of questions, 'Has this guy got a bomb? Is this his hideout? Am I going to die?' From my perspective I have to judge the officers by what they perceived at the scene with the information they had at the time. Mr. Barnes' perspective can be very different than an officer who's rolling in on a known bank robbery suspect. That's scary."

Howell had praise for the woman who spotted the white vehicle matching the description of the getaway vehicle.

"The best crimefighter is a nosy neighbor," he said. "She was one of the people listening to the scanner and calling us. We love her. She's our hero."

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The Record Courier Updated Jan 13, 2013 10:42AM Published Jan 11, 2013 08:21PM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.