County man arrested after using bomb threats to divert police and then robbing bank

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A 44-year old Switzerland County man has been arrested and charged with 11 felony counts after he orchestrated a day of confusion and terror last Thursday morning in Switzerland and Ohio counties.

Robert Lee Buchanan of Markland Pike was arrested by Indiana State Police investigators late Friday afternoon. He was arrested at his home; and was taken to the Switzerland County Detention Center, where he remains following his first appearance in Switzerland County Superior Court on Monday morning.

More charges are possible once the threats in Ohio County are dealt with.

Robert Buchanan was charged on Monday with robbery with a deadly weapon, a class B felony; three counts of criminal confinement with a deadly weapon, a class B felony; theft, a class D felony; three counts of intimidation with a deadly weapon, a class C felony; and three counts of false reporting of a bomb threat, a class D felony.

A person convicted of a class B felony shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of 10 years, with the possibility of up to 10 additional years added on for aggravating circumstances; and not more than four years subtracted for mitigating circumstances.

A person convicted of a class C felony shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of four years, with the possibility of up to four additional years added on for aggravating circumstances; and not more than two years subtracted for mitigating circumstances.

A person convicted of a class D felony shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of 1 1/2 years, with the possibility of up to 1 1/2 additional years added on for aggravating circumstances; and not more than one year subtracted for mitigating circumstances.

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Things were quiet last Thursday morning when the Ohio County Communications Center in Rising Sun received a bomb threat against Ohio County Elementary School and Rising Sun High School.

The call, which was received at approximately 9:10 a.m., said that there were bombs in both schools, and that those bombs were set to go off at noon.

Approximately 10 minutes later, the Switzerland County Communications Center in Vevay also received a threatening call. This time, the caller said that bombs had been placed in Jefferson-Craig Elementary School; Switzerland County Middle School; and Switzerland County High School. Again, the caller said that those bombs would also detonate at noon.

Switzerland County Elementary School in East Enterprise was not mentioned.

Both school corporations activated their emergency plans, and arrangements were made for the schools to close and students be dismissed. The schools had to get their bus drivers back to the schools so that the students could be released, and Switzerland County schools closed at 11 a.m. and all staff were asked to leave the buildings before noon.

While officers from the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department, the Rising Sun Police Department, the Switzerland County Sheriff’s Department, and the Vevay Police Department were working on the bomb threats; according to the Indiana State Police at approximately 10:40 a.m. a lone gunman entered the East Enterprise branch of the MainSource Bank.

The suspect was carrying a shotgun and demanded that tellers in the bank give him money in their cash drawers and in the vault. After the tellers concurred with the demands, the man left the bank with $37,851.

He was wearing a dark maroon hooded sweatshirt, a ski mask, camouflage pants, and gloves. He escaped the bank and fled the scene heading east on State Road 250 in a black Ford Taurus or Ford EXP with dark tinted windows.

All law enforcement officials dealing with the situation quickly concluded that the bomb threats and the bank robbery were related, with the bomb threats diverting officers’ attention away from East Enterprise. Officers assumed that the elementary in East Enterprise was not included in the bomb threats because of its proximity to the bank.

Officers investigating the robbery worked with both communication centers, who traced the bomb threat calls to a pay phone at a BP gas station in Warsaw, Kentucky. Law enforcement officers in Kentucky were then brought into the case, and began an investigation of the BP station as a crime scene.

Officers found no evidence of any bomb or explosive device at any of the schools; and all of the schools resumed classes on Friday as normal.

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According to the probable cause affidavit that was filed by Indiana State Police detective Thomas Baxter and filed in the Switzerland County Clerk’s office on Monday, January 22nd, it was a cooperative effort by several agencies that led to the arrest of Robert Buchanan.

Vevay Newspapers obtained a copy of the Probable Cause Affidavit through the state’s access to public records act.

According to the affidavit, once officers concluded that both bomb threat calls came from the same pay phone in Warsaw, Kentucky, at the same approximate time, Kentucky State Police detective Chris Clark went to the BP station and located digital video of the parking lot area from Mr. T’s Liquor Store.

That video showed a possible suspect and his vehicle in the area of the phone booths at the time of the calls. The vehicle was a white Jeep Grand Cherokee with a specific identifiable missing piece of trim on the driver’s side rear door.

The Kentucky State Police obtained a copy of the video and turned it over to the Indiana State Police.

At the same time, Indiana State Police detective sergeant Mike Black and detective Anthony Scott were interviewing the three tellers who were in the bank at the time of the robbery.

The tellers reported that a single male bank robber entered the branch, masked and gloved and carrying a long gun and a large duffel bag. The tellers stated that the robber pointed the gun in their direction and ordered them to “get down”. The gunman then ordered them to “clean out the drawers”, at which point they went to the cash drawers in the teller area.

The tellers cooperated and gave the gunman the money in the cash drawers; at which time the robber ordered them back to the vault area to “get the money”. While getting that money, the tellers said that the man said, “Get back down. I know who you are, I know where you live, I know who your kids are. Stay down!”

The robber then left the bank, went around the southwest side of the building, and left in a vehicle headed down State Road 250 towards Patriot.

Indiana State Police investigators then received information from Rising Sun Police Chief David Hewitt, who was investigating the bomb threats in Rising Sun. Chief Hewitt had seen the vehicle description from the BP video, and had received information that a man named Bobby Buchanan of near East Enterprise had a vehicle that matched the description.

Vevay town marshal Brian Morton also showed a copy of the video to Chief Communications Officer Rich Lay of Switzerland County Communications, who stated that he recognized the vehicle and believed that it belonged to his neighbor, Bobby Buchanan.

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Detective Baxter’s Probable Cause Affidavit continues by saying that on Friday, January 19th, he and Detective Sergeant Black went to the Robert Buchanan residence and interviewed the suspect in Thomas Baxter’s car. Robert Buchanan was told that he was not in custody, and that he could leave the vehicle at any time.

During the discussion, the affidavit states that Robert Buchanan admitted that he was responsible for the bomb threats made the day before, but denied involvement in the bank robbery.

The following day, Saturday, January 20th, Detective Baxter and Stan Tressler of the Indiana State Police again went to Robert Buchanan’s home to interview him.

After more discussion and questions, the affidavit says that, “Buchanan initially denied involvement and after some hypothetical discussion initiated by Buchanan about what the bank robbery charges would be, and possible time (minimum and maximum) he said, that if we would give him some time to tell his family, that he would tell us what we wanted to know.”

The affidavit says that Robert Buchanan then got out of the car, and met with his family near a pole barn on the property. After talking to his family, Robert Buchanan then returned to speak with detectives Baxter and Tressler, and suggested that the three men talk at his kitchen table.

“Buchanan then sat down and told us the events leading up to his financial situation and decision to rob the bank,” Detective Baxter writes in the affidavit. “Buchanan then narrated a lengthy taped statement describing his planning, the preparation of his disguise, vehicle, and escape route after the robbery, his disposing of the evidence and what he did with the money. Buchanan cooperated fully of his own will and volunteered to show us the evidence related to the robbery.”

After detectives got a waiver from Robert Buchanan that allowed them to search the property, the affidavit states that Robert Buchanan, “…Pointed out where the gun was located, where the car was located, where he had burned his clothing and plastic related to the ‘car wrap’, where he had originally hid the money, where he later moved the money and where it was currently buried in the woods near his yard.”

Robert Buchanan apparently wrapped his escape vehicle in plastic in order to disguise its appearance while making his get away.

The affidavit then states that CSI Sergeant Steve Weigel then collected items at the direction of Robert Buchanan, including $33,034 in currency in two trash bags buried in the woods near his front yard.

He was then taken into custody and taken to the Switzerland County Detention Center.