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Woman Chased After Bank Robbery Shoots Self in Front of Crowd

June 6, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ A woman robbed a bank of $5,000, then shot herself in the head in front of dozens of lunchtime shoppers on a busy downtown street Friday as police gave chase, authorities said.

Rowena Leonard, 45, of Pontoon Beach, Ill., a former St. Louis-area real estate agent, was reported in serious but stable condition at Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a bullet lodged in the bone of her skull.

Police later filed a charge of armed robbery against Ms. Leonard.

Doctors did not plan to remove the bullet immediately, said hospital spokeswoman Pat Miller.

″She said her mother was sick and whatever business she was in was failing,″ said Police Capt. James Maher. ″We’re talking about a 45- or 46- year-old woman from southern Illinois who is not familiar with Chicago. She apparently thought she could just come up here and rob a bank.″

The chase began just seconds after well-dressed woman pulled a handgun on a teller at the Michigan Avenue National Bank, demanded $500,000 and left with $5,000 in cash, said District Cmdr. Robert Casey.

Mrs. Leonard told the teller she had an explosive device strapped to her waist, but it was later determined she did not, Casey said.

Patrolman Anthony Bonder, who was in the bank, pursued the woman as she fled, said Casey, and two other officers joined the chase down a busy street in the city’s Loop business district.

″As they caught up with her, she pointed the gun at them and was told to drop it. Instead, she put it to her head and pulled the trigger,″ Casey said.

A briefcase was recovered with the $5,000 inside, said Maher.

Ms. Leonard was president of a real-estate company developing a subdivision in Granite City, near St. Louis, said Herb Cameron of the First Granite City National Bank. The bank had foreclosed on the operation ″a while back,″ he said.

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