A five-week search for two men suspected of robbing an Iowa bank with sawed-off shotguns ended in Yellowstone National Park late Wednesday and early this morning.
One of the men, Justin Michael Shrader, 23, was caught after he fled into the woods Wednesday night near Canyon and was eventually hit with a park ranger's Taser and subdued.
Another man, Aaron Michael Rafferty, 32, was arrested near Mammoth this morning after a security guard saw him sleeping in his car.
Both of them are wanted by authorities in connection with a bank robbery in Oskaloosa, Iowa, last month.
"Obviously I'm very happy they were caught," Jake McGee, chief of the Oskaloosa Police Department, said this morning.
Police believe the two men, wearing masks and carrying shotguns, entered the Community First Credit Union in Oskaloosa just after it opened May 8. They got money from the tellers and the vault and then dropped a device with wires and a circuit board. Police believe the "suspicious package" was a decoy meant to delay law officers and give the robbers time to flee.
They then drove to a rural area, hid their car in the woods and walked to a farm where they bought a 1988 Ford pickup for $3,000 cash, McGee said.
Shrader and Rafferty had apparently been staying at the farm for several months "bumming meals, cigarettes and beer off these people," McGee said. Both men have criminal records in the area, he said, mostly for burglary, theft and alcohol violations.
The men disappeared after buying the truck. Investigators followed hundreds of leads and thought the two might be headed to Missouri, Arizona or California, McGee said.
"None of them really panned out until last night," he said.
McGee was surprised this morning that Shrader and Rafferty had turned up in Yellowstone, and couldn't speculate about why they were in the park.
"We have no idea," he said.
Yellowstone rangers' involvement started during an investigation into a hit-and-run accident near Canyon.
Around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, rangers found an unoccupied vehicle in the Canyon Lodge cabin complex. The vehicle matched the description of one involved in the crash at Canyon earlier in the evening.
McGee said the vehicle was the same Ford pickup the two bought in Iowa but it had Arizona license plates that didn't match the truck.
Shrader returned to the vehicle and was contacted by the rangers, who soon found out that he and Rafferty were staying in a nearby cabin.
While rangers were contacting the second man, a check revealed that Shrader had an active arrest warrant for the Iowa bank robbery, the Park Service said.
Both men fled into the woods. Shrader was caught after a short pursuit and a "protracted struggle which ended when a ranger used a Taser to bring the suspect under control," according to the Park Service.
Rafferty eluded capture and park officials launched a seven-hour manhunt including nearly 40 law enforcement officers from Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks along with sheriff's officers from Park County, Mont.
Road blocks were set up throughout the park and workers at entrance stations told visitors that a manhunt was under way.
A Canyon security guard working for Xanterra Parks and Resorts reported seeing Rafferty sleeping in a car around 6 a.m. He was arrested without incident.
Park Service rangers and special agents are working with the FBI in Iowa and the Oskaloosa police in the investigation.
The two men are scheduled to appear before the U.S. magistrate in Yellowstone on charges of assault on a federal officer, eluding and evading and driving while intoxicated.
The process will also begin to extradite the two men to Iowa where they will face state and federal charges of armed bank robbery, the Park Service said.
"As soon as we knew we had this situation, our personnel got things in motion and started a significant manhunt," said Al Nash, a Yellowstone spokesman.
None of the officers involved was hurt, Nash said, but they were worn out this morning.
"A lot of visitors don't realize some of the tasks that our staff has to do," Nash said. "When needed, we have a cadre of highly trained, very professional law enforcement here."
McGee said he appreciates the Park Service's efforts to catch the pair. Although no one was hurt in the Oskaloosa bank robbery, it shook the city of 11,000.
"We have our share of crime but nothing as serious as this was," McGee said.