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Suicide bank robber suspected in other holdups

Photo Credit: RAMSEY PD
Photo Credit: RAMSEY PD

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : A man who shot and killed himself after a police chase following a Rockland County bank robbery Thursday may have held up a Capital One branch in Ramsey on Feb. 18, as police said Friday, but there are also striking similarities to a Key Bank robbery in Suffern last December.

Still photo from surveillance video of December holdup (COURTESY KEY BANK)

The robber in the Dec. 21 holdup was also driving a Honda CRV with New Jersey license plates, similar to the one in which 66-year-old Paul Sowell of Mahwah killed himself early Thursday evening.

In all three jobs, the robber used a silver, snub-nosed revolver similar to the one Sowell was carrying Thursday.

Ramsey Police Chief Bryan Gurney said police already were aware that a man responsible for more than one area bank robbery might be in the area, driving a 2009 Honda SUV, on Thursday.

Around 6 p.m., a radio call went out from Mahwah police of a holdup in Ramapo involving a car with the same description, he said.

CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM was first with the breaking story, less than 20 minutes after the incident, was first in reporting that Sowell had died and kept its readers up-to-the-minute on developments into the night: Bank robbery suspect shot and killed himself after chase

Mahwah police spotted the Honda headed south on North Franklin Turnpike, Guerney said. Mahwah Lt. Stuart Blank folowed the vehicle into Ramsey, and Guerney’s officers quickly converged on the scene.

At the corner of North Franklin Turnpike and Spring Street, Sowell “turned into the right lane and stopped,” the chief said.

He said Blank and Detective Brad Smth and Patrolman Vasili Pieratos of Ramsey ordered him out of the car, then saw him “raise a silver colored revolver that was aimed towards the roof.

“I can’t drop the gun,” Sowell told them, according to Gurney.


Sowell then lowered the five-shot .38-caliber Taurus Hy Lite revolver and shot himself once in the chest, the chief said.

Smith radioed headquarters for an ambulance, and the officers pulled him out and began administering CPR. He was pronounced dead at 7:09 p.m. at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern.

Authorities haven’t officially said whether they believe Sowell might also have been responsible for a December holdup in Suffern in which a similar revolver was used (see photo, above).

The bandit — wearing a black cloth over his face, a black baseball cap and a black jacket — pointed a revolver at a teller at a Key Bank branch on Route 59. He then made off with an undisclosed amount of cash in a leather zipped pouch — similar to one reportedly found in the CRV on Thursday.

The FBI said the December robber was likely in his 50s, about 5’10” and 180 pounds, with salt and pepper hair — just like Sowell.

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