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Two men charged with robbery of Pablo bank

Two men charged with robbery of Pablo bank

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POLSON - Two men accused of robbing the Pablo Branch of Ronan State Bank of more than $17,000 on Friday went to court Monday unable to post $100,000 bond each.

William James Gopher, 27, of Pablo, and Thomas Lozeau III, 18, who said he lives in his 1990 Nissan Maxima, remain in the Lake County Jail, each charged with one count of robbery.

They were arrested Friday afternoon after a brief but intense manhunt after allegedly fleeing the bank with some $17,000 in cash in a teal-colored sedan, court documents and sheriff's reports state. Gopher and Lozeau were pulled over riding in a teal-colored sedan - a different car but the same color as the one used in the robbery. The first car was found abandoned a short time after the robbery.

Gopher is accused of being the man who walked into the bank about 2:20 p.m. and demanded cash, threatening to detonate a bomb if the tellers didn't comply.

Lake County Sheriff Bill Barron said "it was later discovered not to be a real bomb."

The tellers gave the robber approximately $17,000 in U.S. currency and $1,600 Canadian inside a green oversized bank bag, and he left in a teal car.

Just 57 minutes later, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Police Officer Donald Bell spotted a teal-colored sedan traveling south on old U.S. Highway 93 south of Pablo.

Bell stopped the car to identify the occupants. He and other responding officers noticed a green Pablo Branch Ronan State Bank bank bag "stuffed in front of William Gopher's pants and found in excess of $10,000 in the pockets of William Gopher and another male inside the car, Thomas Lozeau III" while checking the subjects for weapons, the affidavit states.

Two young women in the car told officers the men had arrived at their residence on foot, asking for a ride from Pablo to Ninepipes claiming they needed to get out of Pablo. Gopher showed them a large amount of cash he was carrying in his pocket.

The women were questioned but released without being charged because they apparently were unaware of the robbery.

"Lozeau told detectives that he was driving the car when the bank was robbed and that Gopher had gone into the bank, claiming to be cashing a check, and had come out of the bank carrying a money bag and stating that he had just robbed the bank," the affidavit states. Lozeau told investigators he was not aware that Gopher intended to rob the bank.

Gopher was too drunk to be questioned after his arrest, court documents state.

Lozeau told investigators that when he drove away from the bank, he knew Gopher had just robbed it and that Gopher gave him part of the money a short time later.

In Lake County Justice Court on Monday, Gopher requested a public defender and asked that his bond be reduced. He said he lives in Pablo with his common-law wife and would not be a flight risk.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Mitch Young argued against the reduced bond. He said Gopher is a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy Reservation, and that tribe has no extradition agreement with the state of Montana. He also said Gopher gave a false name after his arrest and eventually told investigators he "was distraught over breaking up" with his domestic partner.

Judge Chuck Wall kept bond at $100,000 for both defendants. They'll be arraigned in Lake County District Court next week and they can argue for bond reductions then, Wall said.

Young said the U.S. prosecutors likely will assume jurisdiction over the case since bank robbery is a federal offense.

The initial appearance of Gopher and Lozeau occurred via closed-circuit television from the jail because the courthouse elevator is closed for remodeling.

Reach reporter John Stromnes at 1-800-366-7186 or jstromnes@missoulian.com

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