POCATELLO - On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered a Pocatello man, Donald Sample, aka Donald Alexander Sheriff, 60, to spend the next 30 years behind bars after he was convicted of the biggest bank robbery in Wyoming back in 2013.
(Full story here: http://www.localnews8.com/news/crime-tracker/pocatello-mans-bank-robbery-career-ends/619689767)
On Wednesday, Local News 8 discovered there was a Pocatello Police officer who single-handedly caught Sheriff as he was fleeing from a Pocatello bank in 1988.
Lt. Paul Manning was only six years into the job, assigned to traffic duties that day, when he happened to be less than three blocks from what was then the Bank of Idaho, when his police scanner alerted units of an armed robbery happening at that bank.
"I just couldn't believe it," Manning recalled after seeing Sheriff's face on the news for what seemed like something he was re-living nearly 30 years later. "To see his face again after 29 years, and here he's doing the exact same thing that I had arrested him for is such a blast from the past."
Manning said he pulled-in behind the Wall to Wall Flooring company, not knowing he was about to come face-to-face with the armed robber.
"If I were to retire tomorrow, I would say this was the highlight, or the most memorable event that has happened in my almost 35-year career," Manning said.
Before robbing the bank in Pocatello, he had spent almost two decades in prison for several other robberies, one being out of Montana. Needless to say, he didn't learn his lesson.
"In his previous bank robberies, he got in and got out quickly. However, this time, he got caught because he tried getting the bank manager to open the vault. If he would have done the same thing he had done at other robberies, I could have missed him by a few seconds or a minute."
As soon as Manning pulled up, the dispatcher told him Sheriff was leaving the scene.
"No more than five seconds later, he came running around the corner of the bank and we met face-to-face," Manning described. "As soon as he figured out who I was and when I figured out who he was, he took off running to the south."
That's when Sheriff ducked behind a dumpster in the McDonald's parking lot next door and went to draw his gun.
"I saw him reach under his suit coat and I knew he had a gun since he had displayed the gun during the robbery."
That prompted Manning to shield himself behind a nearby tree, as he took hold of his gun as standard protocol to protect himself.
That's when Sheriff took off once again.
But he didn't get out of the parking lot before he looked over his shoulder, and what he saw made him surrender.
"I'll never forget what he told me. He said, 'when I looked behind me and saw the barrel of your gun pointed at me, I knew whatever money I had in the bag wasn't worth dying for.'"
During an interview with Sheriff, he told police he had intended to fire shots at Manning to give him time to get to his car and take off with the money.
In a strange twist of events, while Manning had the robber on the ground, he heard over the scanner his partner who was coming to assist in the arrest had been in a car accident while en route. In a situation most people would never enjoy finding themselves stuck in, Manning had been faced with making sure the robber stayed put for the next eight minutes until more backup units arrived to make the arrest.
Although Sheriff never robbed a single bank in Pocatello again, he went on to rob four more banks during that time period in both Idaho Falls and Casper, WY.
"As soon as I saw his face reappear on the news, I just relived the whole thing. It's just something you don't forget."