Iowa State Bank robbery

Sheldon Police Department and O’Brien County Sheriff’s Office personnel were on the scene at the bank robbery at Iowa State Bank on Thursday afternoon. The Sioux County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa State Patrol also helped the investigation, which was later taken over by the FBI.

SHELDON—Iowa State Bank president and CEO Leroy Van Kekerix is hanging tight.

At least that’s what the FBI told him as he awaits word on an update about the armed robbery at noon Thursday at Iowa State Bank in Sheldon.

As of early this week, Van Kekerix had not received an updates from the FBI.

“It’s an active case,” Van Kekerix said. “They were not able to apprehend the suspect. The FBI has asked us to hang tight. They are pursuing any leads.”

Authorities remain on the outlook for a male suspect, who is estimated to be 6 feet, 2 inches tall. He was wearing a black mask, red glasses and white gloves.

He also was armed with a handgun, according to authorities.

The unknown male left the bank at 627 Second Ave. on foot with two canvas bags.

Later Thursday afternoon, local law enforcement determined that he had left the area.

“We think he probably left in a vehicle,” said Sheldon Police Department chief Scott Burtch.

Van Kekerix and Burtch said the suspect got away with an undisclosed amount.

Burtch added no one was hurt and he was not aware of any shots being fired during the incident.

Van Kekerix said the bank employees followed protocol during the armed robbery.

“We have several training sessions throughout the year and different types of training,” he said. “We do robbery training, active shooter training and we do have an actual robbery packet that each employee has. Our staff followed it, they pulled out the packet and followed the procedures that you do following a robbery.”

The FBI is providing counseling for any of the Iowa State Bank employees who want it. Van Kekerix said the bank also provides different local counseling for all of the employees.

It is the same counseling the FBI and Iowa State Bank offered after its branch location in LeMars was robbed in December 2018. The two people involved in that robbery were later apprehended, prosecuted and sentenced to prison.

Iowa State Bank’s Sheldon location closed Thursday after the robbery and remained shuttered Friday. The bank reopened for regular hours Monday.

“It’s a traumatic incident,” Van Kekerix said. “We are just happy there were no physical injuries or damage. We were closed Friday to give our employees a long weekend to regroup after a horrible incident.”

This is the first bank robbery in Sheldon since the 1989 First Federal Bank burglary.

The Sheldon Police Department, O’Brien County Sheriff’s Office, Sioux County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa State Patrol were all on the scene shortly after Thursday’s robbery was reported.

Sheldon police questioned bank employees as other local law enforcement canvassed the area by Iowa State Bank early in the afternoon, visiting businesses to see if they saw anyone matching the description of the suspect.

Sheldon School District buildings, which were hosting summer activities, went into lockdown as a precaution in the early afternoon. Law enforcement was present when students left later in the day and the district reported it experienced no issues during the incident.

At one point, officers were looking over the area in between the railroad tracks and Living Water Community Church, which is west across Second Avenue from Iowa State Bank.

Sheldon Living Water Community Church pastor Jesse Walhof said he does not think the suspect entered the church.

Local law enforcement then blocked off the entrances to Iowa State Bank and Living Water Community Church and set up a table under a tent outside of Living Water Community Church. The temporary base was taken down late Thursday afternoon.

The FBI joined in and has since taken over the investigation, according to Burtch.

“They will get involved if we request them,” Burtch said. “They’ve been pretty good. They asked if we wanted them to take over. They have more resources than we do.”

In e-mail Friday morning to The Mail-Sun Amy Adams from the FBI Omaha Field Office wrote:

“Because it is a federal crime, FBI Omaha will take a primary role in the bank robbery investigation. Without getting into specifics, I can tell you the special agents investigating this robbery are using all resources necessary to identify a suspect. The Sheldon Police Department has released a surveillance photo of the suspect.

“No other details of the robbery will be released at this time.”

The FBI mentioned a photo of the possible getaway car, but the Sheldon Police Department hasn't released the photo of the vehicle yet.

Iowa State Bank’s Sheldon branch is one of eight maintained in the region, with others located in Hull, Ireton, LeMars, Orange City, Paullina, Remsen and Sanborn.

The branch in Sheldon opened downtown in 1996 and moved into a new building constructed at its current site in 1998.

Members of the public are encouraged to call 911 if they have seen the suspect. Information also can be submitted to the Sheldon Police Department at 712-324-2525.