Banking

Less than four years after shooting, Fifth Third faces hostage situation

Less than four years after a fatal shooting at Fifth Third Bancorp’s headquarters in Cincinnati, an armed man entered one of the bank’s branches in suburban Chicago on Tuesday and took hostages.

The incident in Romeoville, Illinois, offers another reminder to the banking industry about the seemingly random physical threats that bank employees and customers might one day face.

The suspect, who was shot by a SWAT team member and was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, had earlier told hostages that he was not there to rob the bank. Authorities have yet to identify the suspect.

The incident Tuesday at a Fifth Third branch in Romeoville, Illinois, came less than four years after a gunman killed three people at the company’s headquarters in Cincinnati.

Bloomberg

Two of the hostages later told a local ABC affiliate that the man was in the middle of a mental-health crisis.

“He kept on telling us, ‘I’m not here to hurt you. I’m not here to hurt no one. I’m not here for the money. I’m here because I am tired of like — I am tired of life,'” one of the hostages said.

While members of a SWAT team were traveling to the scene and Romeoville police officers were stationed outside the Fifth Third branch, the suspect released the hostages but remained inside, according to a report from the Will County Sheriff’s Office. The hostages told police that the suspect had discharged his firearm multiple times inside the bank, according to the Sheriff’s Office report. 

After the SWAT team arrived, the suspect began to exit the branch, the Sheriff’s office said, adding that a SWAT team member fired one round, striking the suspect.

“We are thankful that all who were held by the assailant are safe,” a Fifth Third spokesperson said in an email. “Additional updates will be provided by law enforcement when available.”

In September 2018, a gunman opened fire in and around the branch in Fifth Third’s headquarters, killing three people and seriously injuring three others. The gunman also died in a gunfight with police in the building’s lobby.

After that 2018 shooting, the $211 billion-asset bank said it was analyzing its active-shooter protocols and looking for ways to improve. 

Carol Dodgen, whose firm Dodgen Security Consulting offers security services to the banking industry, said Thursday that banks and their employees are increasingly facing situations that call for training beyond what’s typically taught for robberies.

“These situations are not going away,” Dodgen said. “In situations like this, it becomes clear we need to go beyond the traditional training.”

There were 40 active-shooter situations in 2020, according to FBI data, up from 30 the year before and double the amount in 2016. Twenty-four of the shootings occurred in areas of commerce. 

Dodgen said that the message to bank employees in robbery training is to comply, but incidents like the one that unfolded in suburban Chicago are complicated without knowing the suspect’s motive.

Newer training programs include instruction to bank workers about being aware of their surroundings with the goal of removing themselves from danger if possible, Dodgen said. 

She speculated that the hostages may have helped secure their own release by showing empathy to a suspect in distress, saying that deescalation training has value.

“Robbery training is not going to go away, but I do think it is changing,” Dodgen said. “If it is going to be useful for employees, it can’t be just something that checks a box.”



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