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MATTOON -- The Walmart store in Mattoon was briefly locked down late afternoon on May 31 due to the possible sighting of an Indiana bank robbery suspect.

Chief Jason Taylor of the Mattoon Police Department said in a press release that officers were dispatched at 3:32 p.m. that day to the Wood Forest Bank in Walmart after a bank employee noticed an individual there matching the description of an unknown suspect who had robbed the Wood Forest Bank in Shelbyville, Indiana earlier in the day.

Taylor said the suspect reportedly was standing near cash registers within Walmart while observing bank employees. He said an employee within the bank made eye contact with this man and, due to internal bank email circulating photos of the suspect, immediately recognized him as the suspect who likely robbed the Indiana bank.

The suspect at the Mattoon bank was holding a manila envelope that he also had carried during the Indiana robbery, Taylor said.

"The (Wood Forest Bank) employee who witnessed the suspect said they believed they raised their eyebrows upon making eye contact with the suspect, due to being shocked to see him near their facility. It is believed that this likely prevented the suspect from committing a robbery at the Mattoon (bank)," Taylor said.

Mattoon's Wood Forest Bank branch then made contact with its corporate office and reported these suspicions. The corporate office subsequently reported the matter to local police, and officers were dispatched to there.

"While officers were responding, they were then somehow advised that the (Wood Forest Bank) within Walmart was actually being robbed. As such, numerous units responded to the Walmart and police were stationed at the exits until it could be determined what was actually occurring," Taylor said.

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Upon getting more information and observing Walmart surveillance camera video, Taylor said officers determined that the suspect exited the store one minute before they were dispatched. He said this information was unknown during the time of the actual call, when it was reported that the suspect was within the store.

The suspect is described as a while male, aged 25-30, standing 5 feet, 8 inches-5 feet, 10 inches tall; and weighting 210-230 pounds. Taylor said the suspect left the Mattoon Walmart in a blue car, possibly a Ford Taurus with an unknown plate, that matches the car at the bank robbery scene in Indiana.

Customers who were exiting Walmart on May 31 reported that store employees briefly asked them to remain in place while police responded to the incident.

Taylor said the incident at Walmart lasted about 30 minutes. He said is not known whether the suspect was armed.

"Area police then checked all banks within Mattoon for the presence of the suspect vehicle to no avail. Images of the suspect were distributed to area law enforcement to see if anyone recognized the suspect as being local, and as such we refrained from making a press release," Taylor said.

Mattoon police also coordinated with Officer Bill Dwenger of the Shelbyville, Indiana police department. Dwenger later reported that he has been in contact with the FBI and learned that the suspect had allegedly robbed one bank in North Carolina and two in Tennessee prior to robbing the Indiana branch.

"The (Mattoon) portion of this investigation is ending. It does not appear that the suspect was local and we have no leads. However, we would ask the public to report any possible contact one may have had with said suspect, whether getting gas at a local gas station, going through a drive-up, or possibly speaking with him somewhere in town," Taylor said.

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Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @The RobStroud

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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