Suspected bank robber dies in North Carolina after police pursuit, crash

Published 11:11 am Sunday, March 13, 2022

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Authorities reported Saturday afternoon that a man suspected of robbing banks in North Carolina and South Carolina died in a car crash on Friday night following a police chase and a “forced stop” by a sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina.

The sheriff’s deputy conducted the “forced stop” maneuver with his police vehicle on Interstate 95 because the man was driving at dangerous speeds in his small SUV and would not pull over, Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said at a news conference.

Stone said the maneuver is used to get a vehicle off a roadway “as soon as possible” in dangerous circumstances. The man was driving on wet roads towards Rocky Mount and Nashville, the sheriff said.

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Stone said the maneuver was “not a ramming a technique, it was a gentle movement.”

“The vehicle of the suspect went off the left shoulder of road, traveled some distance down the road, and at that time he ended up against a tree and was partially ejected,” Stone said. “The two deputies on the scene rendered first aid by giving CPR.”

Stone said the man was not wearing a seatbelt. He was identified as Thomas Lester Ketelsen, 60, of Conover, North Carolina.

The sheriff said Ketelsen was suspected of robbing a bank in Conover on Thursday as well as another bank on Friday in Summerville, South Carolina, which is outside of Charleston. A fugitive warrant was issued to the U.S. Marshals Service for Ketelsen, who was already on federal probation for previous convictions, Stone said.

Ketelsen was driving a silver Honda on Friday that authorities had connected to a suspected bank robbery, Stone said. And it was seen driving north on I-95 on Friday evening in North Carolina’s Robeson County, which is near the South Carolina line.

At about 10:40 p.m., deputes in Nash County tried to pull the vehicle over, Stone said.

“The suspect had slowed down to below the posted speed limit,” Stone said. “And when the deputies got behind him, activated their blue lights and sirens, he accelerated and continued on.”