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Bank Robber Caught After Escaping Federal Jail in the Loop, FBI Says

By  Lizzie Schiffman Tufano Erin Meyer and Victoria Johnson | December 21, 2012 7:02am | Updated on December 21, 2012 4:46pm

CHICAGO — Residents of a Lincoln Park apartment complex where a fugitive bank robber was nabbed late Thursday night described a large boom that preceded the commotion that led to Joseph "Jose" Banks' arrest.

Eleanor Santiago, 51, and her 20-year-old son Rafael Santiago live in the building next door to the one where Banks was caught. She said she heard a loud "boom" noise followed by yelling and cursing.

"At first we thought it was thunder snow, because we saw on TV that there might be thunder snow," she said. "Then some friends texted me and told me the bank robbers were at my house, and it just freaked me out, and I was like 'hell no.'"

As far as the yelling, Santiago said that's par for the course in the complex.

"That's normal," she said. "I'm just used to yelling, so I didn't think it was those bank robbers."

 The building where witness Hezeki Harper-Bey, 19, says he saw a man escorted from the door on the right in handcuffs by FBI agents.
The building where witness Hezeki Harper-Bey, 19, says he saw a man escorted from the door on the right in handcuffs by FBI agents.
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DNAinfo/Tanveer Ali

Banks, 37, was arrested at 11:30 p.m. in the 2300 block of North Bosworth Avenue by the FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force, the FBI said. His escape accomplice, Kenneth Conley, is still at large.

Banks was subdued when he appeared in court late Friday morning, sporting shackles on his wrists and ankles and a yellow prison jumpsuit.

He will remain in custody until his preliminary hearing at 11 a.m. Jan. 3, likely in solitary confinement, according to his lawyer, Beau Brindley.

Banks, reportedly an aspiring clothing designer who was known as the "Second-Hand Bandit" for the old clothes he wore during heists, answered questions from the judge with single-word answers, which was out of character for a man known for his courtroom outbursts. While representing himself during his trial for bank robbery, Banks had to be restrained, and was strapped to a chair by court officers.

Hezeki Harper-Bey, 19, whose apartment is near the stretch of North Bosworth Avenue where Banks was arrested, said he saw a man in a white T-shirt and blue shorts sitting in front of 2350 N. Bosworth Ave about 11:15 p.m. Thursday.

About 15 minutes later, Harper-Bey said he heard a loud boom that sounded like a gunshot and saw the man rush into the building.

Shortly afterward, Harper-Bey said he saw police and FBI agents on the scene, and a man was escorted from the apartment in handcuffs. Harper-Bey said he did not appear to be struggling.

Dennisha Franklin, 24, who lives in the same building as Harper-Bey on the fourth floor, said she saw six men in police uniforms and jackets with "FBI" on the back pointing guns at 2350 N. Bosworth when she got home from work around 11:30 p.m.

She also saw a man in handcuffs who appeared uninjured and cooperative with police.

Several neighbors confirmed they heard a loud boom on the block around the time Banks was arrested, but an FBI spokeswoman said that no shots were fired during the arrest.

Later in the evening, Harper-Bey said he saw officials take a metallic yellow box from the unit where the man was arrested.

"If I would have seen him, I would have turned him in," Harper-Bey said. "I need the money," referring to the $50,000 reward the FBI had offered for information leading to the suspects' capture.

Banks and his cellmate Kenneth Conley, 38 — also a convicted bank robber — escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center at 2:40 a.m. Tuesday by making a rope out of bedsheets and rapelling down 15 stories, FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde said.

Police then launched a massive manhunt, following a trail to southwest suburban Tinley Park before "the trail [went] somewhat cold," Hyde said.

John Stamps, 31, who lives nearby in the 2300 block of Ashland Avenue, said Bosworth Avenue made sense as a hideout for a man on the run.

"This is a good place to hide," he said. "This is a good place to blend in."

The search continues for Conley, Banks’ fellow escapee, Hyde said.