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Both suspects caught, charged in St. Louis bank robbery

March 19, 1997 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ The AK-47s went off too quickly for bank employees to trip alarms. A guard lay dying before the two bandits, spraying bullets around the crowded lobby, even demanded money.

On Tuesday, two men, 19 and 21 years old, were charged in the guard’s death and in Monday’s holdup at the Lindell Bank & Trust.

The guard, Richard Heflin, 46, of Belleville, Ill., was shot before he had time to react. The married father of three later died at a hospital.

The robbers sprayed the walls with gunfire, missing more than two dozen people in the lobby. Then they grabbed some money and fled in a blue van, leading police on a chase before crashing near the zoo.

The van caught fire, and police captured one suspect, Norris Holder, 21, after rolling him to put out his burning clothes.

The other, Billie Allen, 19, was arrested early Tuesday at a house in south St. Louis. Both men were charged with first-degree murder and robbery.

Police Chief Ron Henderson lauded two witnesses who used cellular phones to alert police to the robbery in the normally peaceful neighborhood of St. Louis. Other calls and tips helped lead police to Allen.

Some of the stolen money was burned in the van fire. Police wouldn’t say how much money was taken or recovered.

Henderson said that in addition to the assault rifles, the two men had a sawed-off shotgun, walkie-talkies and a cellular phone, and Holder even wore a bullet-proof vest.

Crime experts viewed the heist as the latest in a disturbing trend of holdups committed by heavily armed young men, ready and even eager for violence.

Last month in Los Angeles, two suspects died in a gunfight with police after a botched bank job. Sixteen officers and civilians were wounded.

And last week, a gunman killed three people and wounded another in a Detroit bank before he was gunned down by police.

``The notion in traditional bank robberies has been to get the money quick and easy, and get away,″ said Scott Decker, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. ``These are quite different events in that they’re creating terror.″