By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Feb. 13, 2009) -- Master Sgt. Donald Murrah probably didn't think he'd have a real exciting day last June when he went to the Wells Fargo Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, to do a routine errand, and instead became instrumental in thwarting a robbery.
The retired sergeant -- now a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor at Haltom High School in Haltom City, Texas -- chose the bank's parking lot as a meeting point where he could lend some personal military gear to a friend and retired Soldier, 1st Sgt. David Long.
"After I gave him the gear, he and I sat around there for a bit to chat," said Murrah.
It was during their chat, just before noon that morning, that Murrah and Long noticed a suspicious character entering the bank.
"I had seen him get out of a taxi cab and walk up to the bank -- this guy," Murrah said. "And he was wearing a jacket, long pants, and a hat. But in Texas in June it's real hot outside."
Murrah told his friend that something was out of the ordinary and they'd better pay attention to what was going on.
"We have to keep an eye on this guy, something is not right here," Murrah said to his friend. "As we stood outside and were talking, we saw a lady walk out real quick. Then I was telling the first sergeant that I think (the guy) robbed the bank. I said we'd watch and see what he does when he came out."
The suspicious looking fellow was 57-year-old Larry Don Enos. And Murrah's suspicions were correct. Enos had indeed robbed the bank, using a 32- caliber semi-automatic pistol.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice report, Enos, who had been wearing a disguise that consisted of, among other things, sunglasses, a wig and a false beard and mustache, had pointed his weapon at the bank manager and demanded money. After bank employees complied with the request, Enos had also asked the bank manager to drive him away from the bank. The bank manager opted instead to give the robber keys to his own vehicle along with instructions as to where the vehicle was parked.
"So he came out and he was trying to open a car," Murrah said. "I was on the south side of the building and he walked out on the north side and I could see him after he passed the building he was trying to get into the car."
Murrah said that Enos appeared to struggle trying to enter the vehicle. He learned later the bank manager had intentionally misdirected the robber to the wrong car -- presumably to buy enough time for the police to arrive. But the robber still needed to get away, and the line of occupied vehicles waiting for the ATM and drive-through teller window looked like a likely prospect for his escape.
Enos first approached a woman at the bank's drive-up ATM. As he made demands on the woman in the car, Murrah had already started moving toward the robber.
"He tried to carjack her, but she drove off," Murrah said. "At that time I was just about up to him. After that, he went to the next lane (of vehicles)."
Murrah must have moved a little too close to Enos for the robber's comfort, and that's when Enos pointed the gun at Murrah.
"I ducked behind a concrete pillar," Murrah said, adding that it wasn't the first time he'd had a gun pointed at him.
The robber moved on to a sports utility vehicle in the drive-through teller's lane, driven by a woman with two children in the car. According to the DOJ report, Enos pointed the gun at the driver, about 12 inches from her face, and told her to get out. She told him there were children in the car, but, the report said, Enos told the driver he didn't care. It was at that point Enos' bank-robbing adventure came to a surprise ending.
"He got to the van and was about to carjack a lady and her two kids," Murrrah said. "He kind of had his body halfway in the van and I grabbed him by the collar. You know in Judo how you do a hip toss. I knew I had to get him off his feet. And that's the only way I'd have any leverage because he had a gun.
"I grabbed him by the collar, one hand on each side of his collar and tossed him over my left side. He landed on the ground, the money fell out of the bag, and I held him down and held his right hand down that had the gun in it and I pried his fingers loose. We just waited for the Fort Worth police to get there then -- it seemed like a matter of seconds."
Murrah said it was partly Army training and partly the martial arts courses he'd taken in Korea that allowed him to do what he did that day in Texas.
"The Army always tells you to pay attention to detail," Murrah said. "I guess that's one habit I picked up -- I always look for that. And you have to care for the safety of others. They always taught us in the Army: take care of your Soldiers -- mission first and take care of Soldiers so they can take care of the mission."
Still, Murrah said he was in disbelief after what he'd done.
"After it happened I couldn't believe what I did," he said. "I thought that was kind of stupid -- a guy had a gun and I chased after him and I didn't have a gun. My adrenaline was going so bad ... it took a couple of hours to calm down before I could write my police statement."
For his part in the robbery, Enos pleaded guilty to bank robbery, two counts of using or carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, and one count of carjacking, the DOJ report said. Enos faced a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $1 million dollar fine. While awaiting a sentencing hearing scheduled for Dec. 15, 2008, he died on Oct. 14.
For his actions, Murrah received recognition from the Fort Worth Police Department, and will receive the Soldiers Medal during a ceremony Feb. 18 at Haltom High School where he works.