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Park Rapids man charged in relation to Feb. 26 Akeley bank robbery

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A 53-year-old Park Rapids man was charged Friday in Hubbard County District Court in relation to the Feb. 26 robbery of the Akeley branch of First National Bank of Walker.

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Edward Joseph Lowen was charged with three felonies: first-degree aggravated robbery, second-degree aggravated robbery and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

Lowen remained in custody Friday afternoon. Hubbard County Attorney Donovan Dearstyne asked Judge Paul Rasmussen to set bail at $150,000 unconditional and $100,000 with conditions, but the judge set bail at $75,000 unconditional and $25,000 with conditions. Rasmussen scheduled Lowen's next court appearance for March 8.

According to the criminal complaint:

At about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 26, the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office received a report of a bank robbery at the Akeley branch of First Nation Bank of Walker. Sheriff's deputies, State Patrol troopers, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and FBI agents responded.

They interviewed bank employees and examined surveillance footage. In the photos, a white man wearing blue jeans, a camouflage jacket, sunglasses, tennis shoes and gloves was brandishing what appeared to be a semi-automatic pistol and demanding money from bank tellers.

The man handed a black bag to the tellers and told them to put money in the bag. The man fled the scene in a dark-colored Chevrolet Tahoe with $2,525 from the bank.

Investigators interviewing Akeley residents learned that a dark-colored Tahoe had been seen in town for several hours before the robbery driving by the bank from several directions with a single occupant driving the vehicle.

Investigators had supplied photos from the surveillance cameras to news media. They also ran checks through the Department of Motor Vehicles on area Tahoe owners, narrowing their search to owners who fit the description of the bank robber. Lowen fit the description, drives a Tahoe and lives in Hubbard County. Investigators also received a call from a person who saw the news footage and identified the robber.

Investigators went to Lowen's house, identified themselves and were invited in by the suspect.

Lowen gave an alibi saying he had not left the house on Feb. 26.

He consented to a search. The investigators found a receipt for a $1,100 money order and a receipt from a Park Rapids store that showed Lowen had not been home all day.

Lowen stopped the consent search and the officers applied for and obtained a search warrant. The officers found two tennis shoes matching those worn by the robber, a black bag matching the bag used by the robber, several receipts for money orders, a photo showing the defendant wearing a camouflage jacket matching the robber's and an owner's manual for an air pistol similar to the pistol used by the robber.

Officers did not find the pistol, but found a glob of melted plastic in the driveway.

Lowen had bought an air pistol Feb. 15 in Park Rapids that was similar to the pistol used by the robber.

If convicted, Lowen faces a maximum penalty of $35,000 and 20 years in prison on the first-degree aggravated robbery count, $30,000 and 15 years in prison on the second-degree aggravated robbery count and $14,000 and seven years in prison on the second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon count.

Dearstyne said bank robberies can be prosecuted by both state and federal court, and he has been in communication with federal authorities.

"He could technically be prosecuted in both jurisdictions," he said.

It would not constitute double jeopardy, he said, because they are different governmental entities.

Y mmiron@bemidjipioneer.com

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Pioneer staff reports
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