The crime was committed while the agency was reeling from the death of another CPD sergeant hours earlier.
By Jamie Nash
March 25, 2009
HOUSTON- On Tuesday, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in conjunction with the Conroe Police Department, announced the arrest of CPD Sgt. Michael E. Tindall on Tuesday morning for allegedly robbing the 1st Bank of Conroe, located at 2201 Westview, on the morning of Aug. 11, 2008.
Local officers, speaking off the record, expressed a wide range of emotions on Tuesday after learning of Tindall's arrest and the strength of the evidence against him.
Some officers' emotions may become much stronger when they recall the other major event that occurred hours before the 9:22 a.m. bank robbery.
CPD Sgt. Gary Daniel Hardage Jr. was killed around 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 11, 2008 in an off-duty crash, when an SUV turned in front of his motorcycle on W. Davis Street in Conroe.
The popular sergeant's death impacted the department profoundly. The grief was amplified by the fact that Tami Hardage, Gary's wife, was also employed by CPD as a dispatcher. She was on duty the morning of the tragedy and took the call, not knowing it was her husband.
The Conroe Police Depar tment family was united in their grief, and undeniably distracted by it on the morning Tindall is accused of robbing First Conroe Bank.
Tindall, a 23 year CPD veteran had worked an extra job as a security officer at the bank, according to details released during a press conference conducted by Andrew R. Bland III, SAC of the Houston office of the FBI, Assistant US Attorney, Southern District, Kebharu H. Smith, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Michael E. Anderson, and Conroe Police Chief Charlie Ray.
Bland said investigators believe Tindall was off-duty and monitoring a police radio, when he allegedly robbed the bank.
Witnesses told investigators a white male entered the bank wearing gloves, a white motorcycle helmet with a clear visor and aviator style glasses, a dark color jacket or shirt, blue jeans, and white athletic shoes, carrying a black bag.
"The individual approached the teller counter, jumped over the counter, and (yelling) demanded currency from the tellers," Bland said. "Once he received his ill-gotten goods, he jumped back over the counter, exited the bank and walked toward a four-door Chevy Malibu."
The bandit fled with $28,672, which he demanded from the bottom drawers, which did not contain "bait money" used to track robbery suspects. That detail indicated he had inside knowledge, because the location is not standard protocol, but the choice of that particular bank.
A teller watched the robber get into a silver Chevy Malibu, and she noted the license plate which was in the format of a pickup truck.
The FBI began a seven-month investigation Bland said and immediately "established a very productive relationship with the Conroe Police Department."
No weapon was seen, which is why the charge is "bank robbery" instead of "armed robbery."
Tindall, a 47-year-old Conroe resident, was arrested Tuesday morning at the FBI Conroe field office by FBI agents CPD officers, Bland said.
"This is a very difficult time for those of us in law enforcement," Bland said.
"It's very difficult for us because the public expects the utmost integrity, because we provide protection and security for families in our communities, and it's very difficult for us to understand that we have one of our own who has betrayed us."
"However, at the end of the day, we will police ourselves and assure that the proper justice is brought to the any individual who elects to be involved in a crime of this nature."
Chief Ray said it was unfortunate and sad that they were holding the press conference to talk about one of their own.
"There is no greater betrayal of the public's trust than when one who is sworn to uphold the law violates the law," Ray said. "I'm here to reassure you that we're going to continue to do our job enforcing the law, protecting you and serving you."
Ray said the alleged crime was a betrayal of the publi c and all of the "hard working honest law enforcement officers throughout the country."
"It's been a difficult time," he said.
Ray said he had known Tindall for 20 years and he was a friend and part of the law enforcement family.
The criminal complaint, completed by FBI Special Agent Soo J. Barrow, states the bank's Sr. Vice President and CEO, Lee Warren, contacted Barrow the day after the robbery, saying he believed Tindall was the robber.
Warren told Barrow he knew Tindall by sight and voice and saw similarities in the the suspect's voice and mannerisms in the security video, adding that Tindall knew the bank's layout and which drawers contained "bait money." Additionally, one of the tellers on duty when the bank was robbed stated she recognized Tindall's voice.
While information at the press conference indicated Tindall was employed by the bank at the time of the robbery, the complaint states he had not been inside the bank in about a month when he went inside to make a deposit on Aug. 8, a few days prior to the robbery.
During the investigation, Barrow reviewed surveillance video from Aug. 8, (marked Aug. 10 because the date / time stamp had been confirmed as 47 hours, 32 minutes fast) when a uniformed officer, positively identified as Tindall by CPD Task Force Officer Dorcy McGinnis, used a rear entrance that allows access to the teller area. He lingered talking on a cell phone, and walked into the drive-th rough area.
A review of Tindall's bank account, at First Conroe, showed he made a deposit in his account at First Conroe Bank around that time. However, the agent wrote that the time spent in the teller area, approximately 12 minutes, far exceeded that required to make the transaction.
Barrow informed Chief Ray and Deputy Chief Philip Dupuis on Nov. 19 that a CPD officer was the prime suspect, but did not release Tindall's identity. Ray and Dupuis reviewed the bank's security video and told Barrow they too believed Tindall was the robber.
A short time later, Dupuis told Barrow the helmet worn by the robber resembled one he had seen Tindall wearing. CPD Sgt. Jon Buckholtz later told Barrow that for three consecutive years, the Conroe Police Officers Association sponsored a go-cart as part of the Children's Festival go-cart race. In preparation, they obtained two helmets and two jackets. One year, Buckholtz and Tindall alternated as drivers of the CPOA go-cart. Buckholtz' helmet showed several similarities to the one in the video, Barrow wrote, as did the jacket.
In March Dupuis reported that a review of radio logs revealed that Tindall's police radio was turned on from 8:57 a.m. to 10:02 a.m. on the morning of the robbery, which was Tindall's day off. Dupuis said it was unusual for Tindall's radio to be turned on while he was off-duty.
Bank records showed Tindall deposited $5,000 into an account at the Woodforest Bank, acr oss the street from the apartment complex where he resided, around 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 11. The location is less than 5 miles from First Conroe Bank.
Between that date and Sept. 16, Barrow found Tindall deposited $10,900 into the Woodforest Bank account. The amount differed from his typical bi-weekly direct deposits from CPD and prior patterns of much smaller deposits from other sources.
Further damning Tindall, Barrow found evidence that Tindall rented a car matching the suspect vehicle on Aug. 9 and returned it on Aug. 11 at 9:45 a.m.
Ray said Tindall is suspended without pay, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Tindall will appear before a federal magistrate on Wednesday afternoon. Smith said the U.S. Attorney's Office will ask that Tindall be temporarily detained, but bond may be set later on.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
Jamie Nash may be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org