Unarmed, maskless bank robber gets cash, car

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Derrick Thompson

Derrick Davon Thompson didn’t need a gun to rob a North Knoxville bank this week. 

All the 32-year-old man apparently needed was an aggressive attitude and the swaggering confidence to wield it like a weapon to cow no less than four bank employees, according to the FBI.

Thompson, whose last known address was Clarksville, was arrested shortly after the Wednesday morning heist at the Regions Bank near downtown at the intersection of N. Broadway and Central Street. 

Thompson was charged with bank robbery, according to KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk.

The arrest warrant filed by FBI Special Agent Jason Stewart provides a detailed account of the few moments on Wednesday when Thompson was allegedly able to terrorize the people in the bank into doing what he wanted before stealing one of their cars for his getaway.

Thomson walked into the Regions bank branch at 707 N. Broadway about 9:45 a.m. wearing an orange shirt and khaki pants. He wasn’t wearing a mask and none of the witnesses would later claim to have seen a weapon.

He started walking toward the vault but suddenly jumped over the partition separating the customer area from the bank tellers’ aisle behind the counter, Stewart said. 

The bank employees, who were identified only as “Victims 1 through 4” in the warrant, were split between their posts in the teller aisle and their seats at desks near the front door. One of the women (“Victim 3”) dialed E-911 to report the robbery when Thompson jumped the partition but, fearing for her life as well as the lives of her co-workers, hung up the phone when he demanded to know if anyone had called the police.

Thompson first tried to get it into the vacant teller stations but failed, Stewart said. When he tried the occupied teller stations he found that he was unable to open the locked doors. He then angrily informed the employees in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t leaving without money, prompting one of them to finally hand over a wad of cash in the hopes of bringing the ordeal to an end.

Thompson started for the front door but then stopped and told the hapless employees that he planned to drive away from the scene of the crime — the twist being that he needed one of their cars to do it and someone therefore needed to hand over their keys.

“Victim 4 told the robber he could escape on foot,” Stewart wrote in the warrant. “The robber continued to demand keys from one of the victims. Victim 1 then gave the keys to her red Ford Edge to the robber. The robber asked multiple times if Victim 1 had a husband, which scared Victim 1.”

Regions Bank on N. Broadway that was allegedly robbed by Derrick Thompson on May 12. Source: Google Maps

Thompson finally left the bank and drove off in the teller’s SUV as one of the women called E-911 and gave dispatchers a description of both him and the stolen vehicle.

He made it less than half a mile before Knoxville Police Department officers spotted the red SUV and gave chase. Lights and sirens blaring, two KPD units chased Thompson down Magnolia Avenue until he blew through the traffic light at Summit Hill Drive and sped north. 

Thompson eventually opted to stop and surrender at the Pilot Station at 2518 N. Broadway.  The arresting officers searched him and found $1,350 in fifties and hundreds stuffed in his front pants pockets.

“The only thing I didn’t get to do was spend the money,” Thompson lamented as the cops confiscated the cash, according to court records.

“All four victims stated they were in fear for their own lives, as well as the safety of their co-workers,” Stewart said. “The victims described Thompson as aggressive. No victim identified Thompson as being armed with a weapon.”

The bank’s security cameras had, of course, caught the maskless, gunless heist on video and Thompson didn’t event attempt to deny what he’d done while being questioned, records say.

“Thompson stated he ‘got rowdy’ with the teller and ‘bucked on her,’” Stewart wrote. “Thompson stated he decided to rob the bank ‘when he walked by it.’”

Thompson appeared in federal court only hours after his arrest. U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton appointed Federal Defender Benjamin Sharp to represent Thompson, who was listed as unemployed in court documents.

Little was known about his criminal history other than that he had “prior convictions for  multiple misdemeanors,” according to court records. He waived his right to a detention hearing and was jailed pending future appearances in court.

Although the bank robbery and Thompson’s arrest took place in Knoxville, he was booked into the Blount County jail because the facility has a contract to house federal prisoners and Knox County often has too few beds to house additional inmates for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com 

Published on May 14, 2021