CAIRO, IL (KFVS) - Illinois State Police confirm a man was taken into custody Thursday night as a person of interest in connection with a bank robbery at the First National Bank in Cairo that left two people dead.
According to the Williamson County Sheriff's Department, federal investigators brought in James Watts overnight to be held in the Williamson County Jail.
James Nathaniel Watts, 30, was in federal court in Benton, Illinois on Friday. A public defender was appointed to him.
Watt is charged with felon in possession of a firearm.
According to the United States Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton Southern District of Illinois, Watts was arrested on a railroad train trestle in Cairo after a high speed chase with police. Watts was driving a vehicle that belonged to an employee of the First National Bank. According to the criminal complaint, Watts had a .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
Two people were killed in that robbery. A third person is in critical condition. The injured employee is being treated at an area hospital. The identities of the victims have not been released.
According to Illinois State Police, a man wearing dark clothing and a hoodie entered the bank armed with a knife and a handgun just after 5 p.m. on Thursday.
According to the affidavit, a black male approached three female employees of the First National Bank in Cairo as they left the bank after closing. The man forced the three employees back into the bank in an attempt to rob it, according to the affidavit. Surveillance video shows the man with a firearm.
The man did not get any money. Surveillance video shows the man taking the purses of the three employees, putting them in one of the employee's vehicles and leaving the bank parking lot in that employee's vehicle. Two of the employees were killed and one was critically injured during that time.
Around 6:55 p.m, ap.m.fficer spotted the employee's vehicle driven by a black male. When the officer began to follow it, the man led police on a chase reaching speeds more than 100 miles per hour. The chase ended near a railroad train trestle that spans the Ohio River near Cairo.
The man got out of the vehicle and ran to the trestle and tried to hide himself in the trestle.
Around 9 p.m., police arrested Watts and found the pistol in the front pocket of the hooded sweatshirt he was wearing.
Watts was convicted of two counts of forgery in Cape Girardeau County on May 15, 2005, according to the affidavit. Watts was sentenced to seven years in prison. On August 31, 2007, his probation was revoked in the seven year sentenced was imposed.
Folks in Cairo are shocked by the violence in their hometown.
"It's really a sad day here in Cairo," said Suzy Holland, a victim's friend. "I can't say enough. We need to memorialize these two women and pray very hard for the third one. We need to come together as this community and we need to pray really hard. They will get to the bottom of this. We have faith in our community."
"It's crazy because we (Cairo) already have a bad rap," said Tyrell Harris. "We're known for doing violence, I guess. That's what people claim. It was some scary stuff to hear."
"I thought it was a lie," said Raven Johnson. "I had to come see for myself. I thought it was a lie."
The bank is located in the middle of town. Police say the area on Washington Street will be blocked off while they continue their efforts.
Several other agencies assisted at the scene including the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, Alexander County Sheriff's Department, Kentucky State Police and Missouri Highway Patrol.