Customer foils bank robbery attempt in Canton Township with his own handgun
Posted by Amalie Nash and Art Aisner | The Ann Arbor News June 18, 2008 11:02AM
It took a day of congratulatory calls from friends, customers and complete strangers before Nabil Fawzi realized the risk he took by pulling a gun on the would-be bank robber standing just feet away, claiming to have a bomb.
But the Ypsilanti Township gas station owner and father of three said he wouldn't hesitate to do it again.
"In my situation, I felt like I could do it, and I just did it because it felt like it was the right thing to do," said Fawzi, 39.
Joseph WebsterFawzi was the first customer at the Comerica Bank branch on Michigan Avenue in Canton Township at 9 a.m. Monday when police say would-be bank robber Joseph Webster, 53, of Ypsilanti walked in.
Webster allegedly handed a teller a note demanding money and claiming to have bomb strapped to his chest.
Fawzi, who frequently visits the branch on his daily commute from his home in Dearborn to his Sunoco station on Ecorse Road, noticed his own teller was acting strangely. When he asked what was wrong and she indicated a robbery was under way, Fawzi took action.
He said the robber at the adjacent teller station kept one hand behind his back at all times until the teller began doling out dollar bills. The robber demanded a stack of larger bills instead and moved both hands to the window to collect the cash.
Within seconds, Fawzi drew his handgun, racked a round in the chamber
and told the man that he wasn't robbing the bank.
"But I have a bomb," the robber told Fawzi.
"I don't care," Fawzi replied. "You are not robbing this bank today." Fawzi said he searched Webster and found no bomb or any other weapons. Webster sat in a chair at gunpoint until police arrived.
Webster, 53, was arraigned on single counts of bank robbery, armed robbery and third offense habitual offender due to prior convictions for a sex offense and robbery. He was jailed on $100,000 bond, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 27.
After the incident, Fawzi showed police his concealed weapons permit and was released.
Canton Police Detective Sgt. Rick Pomorski credited the customer for his quick actions - but noted that police prefer citizens to serve as witnesses instead of taking matters into their own hands in dangerous situations.
"We never condone that civilians take action when there's a propensity for violence and what could happen," Pomorski said. "We prefer they maintain their distance. That said, we're thankful for the way it turned out. He did a wonderful job securing the scene until we got there."
Fawzi, who is expecting his fourth child this fall, said he would probably would have acted differently if Webster had a gun, but he just did not believe the bomb threat. The Lebanese native said he was reacting on instincts he learned during five years of service in that country's army.
"When I saw his hands were empty I thought this was the right time to act, that if I could stop him, I would stop him."
If convicted, Webster faces up to 25 years in prison.
Fawzi said he and his business partner will celebrate by discounting gas by 5 cents and giving away hot dogs at the station located at 1024 Ecorse Road from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.