The 911 call described a terrifying scene.
A panicked, stuttering caller told dispatchers that a gunman had entered a school in northwest Michigan on Sept. 7, 2016. The gunman had shot the caller’s daughter, the caller said, and was shooting other people, too. Then the call suddenly ended, according to an FBI criminal complaint.
But there was never a school shooting. The call was a diversion, orchestrated by William Francis Minore, 70, to distract police attention as he robbed Huntington Bank in Empire, Michigan, at gunpoint moments later, according to the FBI.
Minore wore a ski mask and pointed his silver revolver at the bank tellers, making one of them empty the bank’s vault into his black duffel bag, according to the FBI.
Minore made another 911 call that day as a second diversion, reporting that a man in a ski mask was going into a bank in nearby Lake Ann, Michigan. He used a disposable “burner” phone to make the calls, the FBI said.
Minore was charged this month with armed bank robbery and related firearms charges in federal court in connection with three banks heists in 2015 and 2016. He has denied the charges, saying he was set up, the Associated Press reports.
Each armed bank robbery charge carries up to 25 years in prison, MLive reports, and each firearms charge carries a minimum of 7 years in prison.
Minore has maintained he was framed by a “media campaign orchestrated by the prosecutor.” In letters to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, he’s said he is now living in an “Alice in Wonderland nightmare” as a result, the newspaper reports.
The FBI consulted just about everyone in Minore’s life to confirm it was his voice on the calls — including bank employees, his sister, the mother of his children, his daughter and one of his co-workers, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.
Minore twice robbed another bank, according to the FBI: Honor State Bank in Lake Ann, Michigan, on April 22 and Dec. 28 of 2015. He used the same ski mask disguise and the same gun as during the 2016 robbery, the FBI said.
During the December 2015 robbery, Minore used a World War II-era hand grenade to scare employees away from the bank vault, the FBI said. When Minore’s abandoned camper was searched, that same kind of pineapple-style grenade was recovered.
And Minore used diversions during those robberies too, the FBI said. He called 911 to report gas station, grocery store and bank robberies in nearby counties ahead of the April robbery, according to the criminal complaint. Before the December robbery, Minore called 911 saying he was talking on the phone with his daughter when he heard the daughter’s boyfriend shoot her.
In all the calls, the voice was “strikingly similar,” according to the FBI.
“In each of them, the caller has a feigned panicked stutter and an irregular breathing pattern,” an FBI agent wrote in the criminal complaint.
Minore lived about 20 miles from each bank, the FBI said.
Leelanau County prosecutors dismissed criminal charges against Minore last week so that federal charges can be brought, the Record-Eagle reports. He had been arrested and charged in November 2016 with armed robbery and related charges, WPBN reports.
Minore has now been transferred to FBI custody, the TV station reports.
“I was kind of surprised,” defense attorney William Burdette told the newspaper. “I didn’t think there was enough evidence. They didn’t bring them before and nothing has really changed.”
A federal judge set Minore’s detention hearing for April 16, MLive reports.