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Updated: Monday, 06 Feb 2012, 9:48 PM EST
Published : Sunday, 05 Feb 2012, 11:22 PM EST
RAVENNA, Mich. (WOOD) - When FBI agents suspected that Kristopher Cheyne and Derryl LaFave were planning to rob a bank, they asked the state police to send help.
But the FBI left local sheriff's deputies in the dark.
State police sent four troopers from at least 29 miles away, while at least five local officers were just minutes away, without a clue of what was about to happen, according to new documents obtained by Target 8.
The robbery on Oct. 13 at the ChoiceOne Bank in Ravenna quickly turned into a chase -- with shots fired that threatened state and local police, as well as the public.
And, it ended with the deaths of Walker Police Officer Trevor Slot -- killed in the line of duty -- and the suspects just 34 minutes after the bank was robbed.
Interactive Timeline: 34 minutes til death -- The Cheyne-LaFave bank robbery
A compilation of dashcam photos from different cars
Ottawa County Sheriff Gary Rosema said that if his department had been given the same warning as state troopers, 20 minutes before the robbery, it could have sent help and set up a roadblock.
At least four Ottawa County deputies were no more than 10 miles south of the bank when they heard the robbers were heading north into Muskegon County in a black Blazer -- away from Ottawa County.
Those deputies were unaware that the suspects had switched into a blue Bravada and that a chase had entered their county, according to reports obtained by Target 8.
One of the robbers fired a rifle at an Ottawa deputy -- punching a hole in the hood of the patrol car -- as the deputy tried to set up a last-second roadblock in Coopersville.
More than three months after the robbery, Target 8 obtained what police are saying are the last of the reports on the case -- a total of 360 pages.
"These local officers were imminently placed in harm's way by virtue of being out of the informational loop," Michael D. Lyman , a nationally recognized law enforcement expert and trainer.
He reviewed the case at the request of Target 8.
Lyman has testified as an expert witness in more than 350 civil and criminal cases involving police. He teaches at Columbia College of Missouri and has written five books on police procedures.
James Wedick , a former long-time FBI agent who received the FBI Director's Award, also reviewed the case at Target 8's request.
He says the FBI should have notified the local sheriff first -- days before the robbery.
"You know they're getting surveillance ready," he said. "Let him (the local sheriff) know, 'Look, this could be in your county. If there's four exits out of town, you can cover them.'"
"They could get deputies heading in the direction and getting their resources in assistance," Wedick said. "They (local deputies) know it better than you, usually. They've got more contacts than you. It doesn't make sense, especially since 9-11, that they don't set this up ahead of time."
It was clear from dispatch recordings that one of the FBI task force members in Ravenna at the time of the robbery, and who trailed the chase, didn't know the area. "We don't even know where we're at," the agent could be heard saying.
And, it was clear that at least some of the state troopers rushing to the area after the robbery didn't know the way. "Does anybody know what 10 Mile (Road) is in Muskegon County," a trooper asked over his police radio.
The FBI refused to comment, saying the case was still under investigation, despite other police reports showing it is closed.
But, the assistant commander of the state police in West Michigan defended federal agents and the entire police response. He said police showed incredible bravery throughout the chase and shootout that followed.
"Everybody's thinking there's a big conspiracy," State Police Sixth District Inspector David Roesler said. "Nothing was done wrong. They did the best they could do."
The Michigan State Police released the final reports -- 266 pages -- to Target 8 in late January.
They are among 360 pages of police reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from four agencies: the state police, Walker police and the Muskegon and Ottawa county sheriff's departments.
Target 8 also obtained 911 dispatches, dash-cam video and bank surveillance video.
The records show the Muskegon County Sheriff's Department had concealed some of the most revealing details from the reports it released.
In its reports released to Target 8 in late November , Muskegon County redacted major sections from seven pages of its 29-page report, many of them under the headings, "Debriefing with FBI" or "Contact with FBI."
But, copies of those same Muskegon County reports were among the records recently released to Target 8 by the state police.
This time, the FBI's involvement was not blacked out.
Those new reports, along with the others, reveal the most complete picture yet of what happened that day -- from the robbery, to the chase, to
the death of Officer Slot and the gun battle with suspects Kristopher Cheyne and Derryl LaFave.
BUGGING A BRAVADA
The FBI had developed Cheyne and LaFave as suspects in "take-over" bank robberies in Moline in June and September.
And this, the FBI believed, was their routine: Carry big guns, wear masks, drive away in a stolen car and, ultimately, dump that getaway car before escaping in Cheyne's blue Oldsmobile Bravada.
The investigation led the FBI's Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force to track the suspects through GPS on the Bravada and on a cell phone. And, for several days before the robbery, the FBI tracked them into Ravenna.
Wedick, the FBI expert, says the local FBI office should have notified the Muskegon County sheriff during that earlier surveillance.
"If you're going to be doing some surveillances or making contacts and doing other things in the community and you know the case is going to receive some kind of attention or it's dangerous or you think somebody could get hurt, it's good to bring on the locals," Wedick said. "You've got to give them a heads up."
Local FBI Agent Sean Burns, in a police report, said that on the morning of Oct. 13, agents noticed the Bravada had "broken from its regular pattern."
"Through the use of a historical surveillance tracking device, they were able to determine that Cheyne's 2002 Bravada was in the area of the Choice One Bank in Ravenna, MI in the morning hours of 10/13/11."
Burns notified Michigan State Police Lt. Chris McIntire, of the Rockford post, and asked for help in the Ravenna area with marked vehicles. State police sent four members of its Sixth District Hometown Security Team.
One member of that team wrote in a report that he was notified at about 10:15 -- 21 minutes before the robbery -- that a "possible bank robbery may occur in the city of Ravenna."
Another team member wrote he was notified at 10:23 a.m. to head to Ravenna to help the FBI in case of a bank robbery, and to monitor Muskegon County dispatch. He was told the suspects had robbed a bank in Moline, possibly using realistic-looking paintball guns.
A third team member, Trooper David Cardenas, wrote that he was notified "the FBI was working a case where subjects may be robbing a bank in Ravenna, MI, today."
Roesler, the state police inspector, said nobody believed the bank was about to be robbed. He said Cardenas' report was wrong.
"Everybody was surprised that morning when the robbery happened," Roesler said.
Roesler said the FBI's tracking unit doesn't give real-time readings. Instead, he said, it sends a delayed signal to the FBI. It isn't clear how long of a delay.
Dispatch audio tapes obtained by Target 8 show an FBI agent in an unmarked car in Ravenna tracked the Bravada through GPS after the chase started.
"I can give you a location with GPS here in a second," he told a Muskegon dispatcher, but later it shows he struggled getting updated GPS readings. "I need that GPS location now," he could be heard telling another agent.
Roesler told Target 8 that the state police first learned of the investigation about 9 a.m. the day of the robbery, when agent Burns visited the Rockford post.
The agent told the state police: "Just so you know, we're keeping an eye on these guys, just so you know. We think they're up to something; we want you guys aware of it," Roesler said.
The FBI agent told state police he was headed that morning to the Muskegon and Ottawa county sheriff's departments to let them know, Roesler said.
"The problem is the robbery happened before he got there," Roesler said.
Inspector Roesler is the brother of Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler, who initially told Target 8 he was not aware of the FBI investigation.
Also about 10:23 that morning -- 20 minutes before the robbery was reported -- FBI Resident Agent in Charge John King called Muskegon County Central Dispatch.
"Hey, this is John King with the FBI in Grand Rapids," King told the dispatcher. "We are right now tracking a couple individuals up in the Muskegon County area around Ravenna. And so, if there happens to be a bank robbery come out, can you make sure we end up getting a phone call?"
"We've got a couple individuals we've been tracking that we think are responsible for a couple other bank robberies down south and they've been putzing around in Ravenna the last couple of days," King told the dispatcher.
When the Muskegon dispatcher asked for a vehicle description, King did not provide one. And, he did not ask dispatch to send any Muskegon County sheriff's cars.
King's call wasn't shared with officers.
AGENTS NORTH AND SOUTH OF BANK
FBI agents later told Muskegon deputies that they had lost the GPS signal in Ravenna before the robbery. After losing that signal, agents started "physically looking for the suspect vehicle and were in the Ravenna area when the robbery took place," Muskegon County reports show.
Burns said the suspect's vehicle had "stopped moving
for a 10- or 15-minute period and immediately after this inactivity" came the report of an armed robbery.
FBI agents were north and south of the bank at the time of the robbery, the agent told the state police.
But, Burns told state police that FBI agents did not have any "personal surveillance on the suspect vehicle or the bank during the time of the robbery."
After hearing the reported robbery, FBI agent Burns was south of Ravenna in an apartment complex, he told police. Burns pulled onto southbound Ravenna Road from the complex and saw the getaway Bravada behind him -- headed south.
"We are southbound on Ravenna Road," Burns told a state police dispatcher. "We have the bank robbers behind us in a blue Bravada. We are traveling south towards Coopersville. We are just passing over Musketawa Trail."
TROOPERS MILES AWAY
Even then, the four members of the State Police Sixth District Hometown Security Team -- the troopers sent to Ravenna about 20 minutes before the robbery -- were nowhere near the bank.
They had a long way to go.
Two of the team members, Troopers Joseph Young and Nate Groya, were on separate patrols in Allegan County -- at least 35 miles away -- when they got the pre-robbery call. They headed north.
The two nearest Hometown Security members -- Troopers Christopher Bush and David Cardenas -- were in the middle of K-9 training on Logan Street in Grand Rapids when they got the same call before the robbery. They were 29 miles from Ravenna.
Reports show the troopers on Logan Street drove north to West River Drive and US-131. And, that's where they were when the bank was robbed -- still 24 miles away.
In the meantime, records show at least five deputies from Muskegon and Ottawa counties were within 10 or 11 miles of the bank at the time of the robbery.
Unlike the members of the Sixth District Homeland Security Team, those deputies had received no warning that LaFave and Cheyne might be preparing for a robbery.
Records also show the nearest state trooper, Willie Buie, was in Muskegon County, just 4 miles from Ravenna. There's no indication in reports that he was sent to the bank before the robbery. Instead, records show, he rushed there after the robbery, and reached town in about 7 minutes.
Dispatches between the FBI and state police suggest that the FBI agents wanted to make the arrest.
"If you just start having your units, we'll keep updated on their location, and if we need a couple of marked units to slide in here and help us with the takedown, please," an FBI agent told state police.
It was Trooper Buie who started the chase, on South Ravenna Road between Pontaluna Road and Wilson Street, about 5 miles south of the bank. His dash-cam video shows the Bravada fishtailing, then passing the FBI's SUV.
It also didn't take long for Muskegon County Lt. Shane Brown to get there, even without getting the warning 20 minutes earlier.
Brown was 11 miles west, on Hts. Ravenna Road, when the robbery call came out. By the time he reached Ravenna, the Bravada and the trailing state police trooper flew by. Lt. Brown joined the chase.
Records also show that at least four Ottawa County deputies were within 10 miles of Ravenna -- two of them at the Ottawa County sheriff station in Coopersville, one of them at Coopersville Public Schools; and the fourth in the eventual path of the chase.
The last they heard, the bank robbers were headed north -- away from Ottawa County -- in a black Blazer.
"Armed robbery just occurred in Ravenna. Left in black Blazer, northbound on south Ravenna Road. Two men with long guns," an Ottawa dispatcher said about 4 minutes after the robbery.
Deputy Tyler Kempema was the nearest Ottawa deputy -- just 7 miles to the south of the bank when it was robbed.
He was working "radar" in northern Ottawa County, at Taft Street and 56th Avenue. Fifty-sixth Avenue becomes South Ravenna Road just to the north in Muskegon County. It's the road that leads straight into Ravenna.
Kempema started heading north, toward Conklin, unaware of the Bravada and the chase coming right at him.
Moments later, the Bravada flashed by, southbound, chased by a state trooper and the Muskegon deputy. Dash-cam video from the state police trooper shows Kempema making a U-turn to join the chase.
"Any updates on Muskegon County?" Ottawa Deputy Kempema asked his dispatcher. "I've got two units southbound 56th."
Lyman, the nationally known police expert, said the dash-cam video showed the risk that Kempema faced because of what he called a communication breakdown.
"It is no small miracle that that particular officer was not a casualty as well," Lyman said. "That's the worst-case scenario, when you're a law enforcement officer, you're on duty, you see something going on but you don't know what's going on, and others amongst you have the full story."
Ottawa County Deputy Travis Babcock was at the sheriff's Coopersville branch office -- about 10 miles from
the bank -- when he learned that the Bravada was rushing south through Coopersville.
Moments later, Babcock was in front of it -- on Randall Street. He heard shots -- LaFave firing out a car window at the trailing state trooper and the Muskegon deputy.
Babcock then veered across the westbound lane, trying to block the Bravada. Instead, the Bravada swerved, and the passenger opened fire at him with a long gun.
Babcock, who ducked and covered his head, recalls hearing two shots. One of those shots punctured the hood of his patrol car, but he still joined the chase.
Roesler, the state police inspector, said the incident unfolded quickly and that different radio frequencies among agencies could have led to the confusion.
"You could also make the argument, why wasn't Ottawa dispatch monitoring other frequencies?" Roesler said.
The chase continued west on Randall, then south on 68th Avenue before heading east on I-96.
It took 16 minutes in all, doubling back west, before ending at the 8th Avenue exit in Marne, where Cheyne ran over Officer Trevor Slot as he prepared to set up stop sticks.
The shootout that followed lasted less than a minute, and ended with the deaths of the suspects. The Ottawa County prosecutor has ruled those shootings justified.
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