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Gunman storms Detroit bank; he and three others killed

March 11, 1997

DETROIT (AP) _ A gunman reciting the Lord’s Prayer opened fire at a bank today, killing three people and wounding one before he was shot dead in a hail of police bullets. Another person was wounded two blocks away.

It was the second deadly big-city shootout at a bank in 11 days.

Two employees of the Comerica bank branch on Detroit’s east side were among the dead.

Police initially described the shootings as an attempted bank robbery but later said the gunman’s motive was unclear.

``Certainly he came into the bank and was asking for money at some point but I don’t know what his ultimate goal was,″ Police Chief Isaiah McKinnon said.

``It appears as if we have a person who walked in to kill,″ McKinnon said.

There was no immediate word on whether the gunman had a grudge against the bank or what weapon he used. However, witness Charles Easterly said he saw the gunman carrying a shotgun.

Police were trying to determine if anyone else was involved in the shooting, McKinnon said.

The attack began two blocks from the bank when the gunman shot a man in the face, Executive Deputy Chief Benny Napoleon said. That man was hospitalized in serious condition.

Napoleon said the gunman then carjacked a Volvo and drove to the bank, located on a commercial strip surrounded by a residential neighborhood. The gunman appeared to be in his mid- to late 20s and was dressed in a gray-and-white camouflage jacket and hat, police said.

Once inside, he said, the gunman shouted religious phrases as he started firing.

``At some point the guy did say `Where’s the money,′ forced people to lie on the floor and asked them to recite the Lord’s Prayer,″ McKinnon said. ``He recited it with them as he was shooting.″

Three bank employees were shot before the gunman ran outside, grabbed a hostage, fired at police and fatally shot the hostage before he died in a barrage of gunfire, police and witnesses said.

``The bank robber just shot the hostage, blew him away,″ said a witness, the owner of a neighborhood car repair shop, who refused to give his name. ``As soon as he shot the hostage, they just opened fire, and blew him away.″

The man said it sounded like 200 rounds were fired.

No police officers were injured.

Among the dead were 52-year-old Stanley Pijanowski III, the bank’s assistant vice president and manager, and James Isom, 25, a retail services representative. Pijanowski had worked for the Detroit-based bank for 29 years, Isom for four years.

Lisa Griffin, 38, an assistant manager at the bank, was hospitalized in fair condition.

``This is a very said day for all of us at Comerica and the community. We share the grief of the victim’s families,″ said Eugene Miller, the bank’s chairman and chief executive.

Police did not immediately release the identities of the gunman, the dead hostage and the man wounded two blocks away.

Tom Fisher, a senior vice president for Comerica, said he couldn’t think of how the bloody rampage might have been prevented.

``We spent over $2.5 million over the last couple of years just on increasing security measures in our branches,″ Fisher said. ``In the sense where we’re dealing with a deranged gunman, I’m just not sure there’s anything any of us can do to totally protect ourselves in that kind of circumstance.″

After a botched holdup at the Bank of America in Los Angeles on Feb. 28, two men died in a brazen gunfight with police. Sixteen police officers and civilians were wounded or injured in the battle, which was televised live from news helicopters.

Authorities identified the gunmen as Emil Matasareanu, a 30-year-old Romanian emigre, and his accomplice, 26-year-old Larry Eugene Phillips of Los Angeles.

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