Police Shoot Man After S&L; Robbery, Freeway Pursuit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police shot and critically wounded a Montana man after he allegedly robbed a Fullerton bank Thursday, led officers on a 15-mile freeway chase and then fired at officers, police said.

The incident began when a mustachioed man in cowboy boots and a baseball cap entered Fullerton Savings & Loan Assn. at 1805 W. Orangethorpe Ave., at 1:21 p.m., told a teller that he was a robber and demanded money, said Richard Kusserow, vice president of security for the bank. Employees said the man was in his late 40s to mid-50s.

After the teller handed over an undisclosed amount of cash, the man drove from the bank in a blue sedan, Kusserow said.

One other customer and five employees were in the bank at the time, he said.

There were conflicting reports about whether the robber had a gun. Kusserow said no weapon was seen, but Fullerton police said the man showed a weapon to the teller.

Employees triggered an alarm, and police began trailing a blue sedan north on the Santa Ana Freeway. As the driver accelerated, police chased him north through Buena Park, where two police units from that city joined the pursuit.

The suspect drove down the Atlantic Boulevard exit and drove a short distance to an industrial area just east of the freeway at Camfield Avenue and Telegraph Road in the City of Commerce, police said.

Alone in the car, he stopped, turned in his seat and pointed a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun at the Fullerton and Buena Park officers, firing once, said Ron Weber, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating the shooting.

Officers from both police departments fired back, hitting the suspect in the upper back and shoulder. Authorities did not say how many times he was hit.

No police officers were injured in the 1:44 p.m. shooting. The names of the officers were not released.

The suspect was identified as Dennis Plouffe, 51, of Butte, Mont. The FBI said Plouffe may be responsible for numerous bank robberies in Southern California over the last three or four weeks. He reportedly is on parole, Weber said.

Plouffe was taken to a Los Angeles area hospital, said Fullerton Police Department spokeswoman Sylvia Palmer Mudrick. He was in stable condition late Thursday, according to sheriff's deputies.

Investigators said they recovered a handgun and the money taken from the bank in the car.

Plouffe's wife, Cindy, 38, said Thursday night that her husband left Butte on April 20 for unknown reasons and that she hadn't heard from him since.

"Oh my God! Oh my God, I didn't know," she said.

Plouffe, said her husband ran a maintenance business in Butte and has been in trouble with the law before but she wouldn't elaborate.

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