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Augusta bank robbery suspect caught after interstate chase ends in McDuffie County

A 61-year-old bank robbery suspect was taken into custody near Thomson after being pursued by local, state and federal authorities through three counties along Interstate 20 last Friday afternoon.

Maj. Ronnie Williamson of the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department identified the suspect as Alex Rodger III, of Lithonia, Ga. He was apprehended about 4:40 p.m. after authorities set up a road block along the westbound lanes of the busy highway, a short distance beyond the overpass of Cedar Rock Road.

Mr. Rodger has been charged with armed robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to a press release from officials with the Richmond County Sheriff's Department in Augusta.

He is being held in the Richmond County Law Enforcement Center.

The suspect is accused of robbing the Bank of America branch on Washington Road in Augusta about 3 p.m., while brandishing a handgun, Richmond County Sheriff's Department Lt. Scott Gay said at the scene. He said deputies received a call from dispatch informing them that an armed robbery was in progress.

The robber had driven away in an unknown type vehicle by the time authorities arrived. However, "through investigative techniques," authorities developed information that the robber was traveling westbound along I-20, Lt. Gay said.

A number of Richmond County deputies then began converging along a stretch of highway in search of the robber. The search later included deputies with the Columbia County Sheriff's Department, along with FBI agents and members of the federal agency's fugitive squad.

Lt. Gay said a roadblock was set up near the rest area in Columbia County, but that efforts to catch the robber there failed. It later was determined by authorities that he got through neighboring Columbia County and had ventured into McDuffie County. The suspect was seen traveling between 45 and 50 mph as he passed along Exit 175 near Cobbham Road.

The car, a silver-colored Mazda 6 with a Clayton County license plate, continued traveling westbound with more than 30 law enforcement vehicles in pursuit, including troopers with the Georgia State Patrol post from Thomson. A number of deputies with the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department also joined in the pursuit. Rangers with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division from Thomson assisted other agencies.

The car later was seen passing Exit 172 - the main exit to Thomson and continuing towards the Warren County line.

Authorities eventually set up another roadblock a short distance away, which led to Mr. Rodger being arrested without incident, Lt. Gay said. Authorities discovered a semi-automatic handgun inside the car and an undisclosed amount of cash, believed taken in the bank robbery, which was found in the trunk.

"It makes you feel good to know we have such a cooperative effort when something like this happens," Maj. Williamson said, referencing the number of law enforcement agencies involved.

Traffic was snarled along a 10-mile stretch of I-20 in the westbound lanes from McDuffie into Columbia County. It was an hour and a half after the suspect was taken into custody before traffic was reported running normal again.

Web posted on Thursday, February 19, 2009

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