By Sally Voth
As chief photographer at the Northern Virginia Daily, Rich Cooley always keeps an eye out for possible photo opportunities.
That sharp eye played a key role in apprehending a suspect in Tuesday morning's robbery of the BB&T Bank in Middletown.
Shortly after the call went out over the police scanner that the Main Street bank had been robbed at about 10:30 a.m., Daily editor Linda Ash called Cooley, who was at his Strasburg home.
Cooley got into his Honda Civic and headed north on U.S. 11 toward Middletown. He noticed something suspicious near Signal Knob Drive.
"There was a car that was kind of, it looked like it was moving kind of fast," Cooley said. "It was turning into the Signal Knob [Drive] where the condos are."
He had heard the description of the robbery suspect come over the scanner, so he paid attention to the driver.
"And, this guy resembled that," Cooley said. "But, what I noticed more than anything else was how this guy really looked distressed, and he was in a hurry. So, I figured, you know what, this just doesn't look right."
Cooley turned around and headed back on U.S. 11 south, turning into Signal Knob Drive. He had noticed the car's personalized tags were from West Virginia.
Cooley saw the car on Hailey Lane, and parked in the same lot. He said the suspect stayed in the car for a while.
"And, when he was going in, he had a blue little satchel, shoulder bag," Cooley recounted. "It was kind of a bright, medium blue. [He] put that on and headed in."
He could more clearly see the young man resembled the suspect's description, and relayed the information when he got to the robbery scene to a Frederick County Sheriff's investigator.
When Cooley saw a K-9 unit running several blocks from the bank, "I figured this wasn't the guy."
But then investigators wanted to take a statement from Cooley.
"Then, I heard them say they got this guy up there [in Strasburg], and he wasn't talking, he was being very defensive, I guess," he said.
Middletown Police Chief R. Philip Breeden praised Cooley's assistance in the case.
"Had it not have been for Rich giving us the information he did when he arrived on the initial scene...then we would not have been able to locate our suspect as quickly as we did," he said.
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or email@example.com