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Camden attempted bank robbery suspect killed in North Carolina chase, chief says

The Nash County sheriff in North Carolina said that a "forced vehicle stop" was used to keep Thomas Lester Ketelsen from heading into populated areas at high speed.
Credit: WXIA

NASH COUNTY, N.C. — A man authorities believe was connected to an attempted bank robbery in Camden on Friday - and other robberies in both North and South Carolina - has died following a police pursuit.

The Nash County Sheriff's Office held a press conference on Saturday announcing the death of 60-year-old Thomas Lester Ketelsen, a man Sheriff Keith Stone described as "a career criminal," following a pursuit.

Sheriff Stone said members of the drug interdiction team in Robeson County flagged a vehicle that was wanted in what he described as a "spree of bank robberies" as it was traveling north on I-95 near the South Carolina border

The vehicle was spotted in Nash County by deputies along the interstate. 

"As the deputies initiated a traffic stop around 10:40 last night, the suspect had slowed down to below the posted speed limit, and when the deputies got behind him, activated their blue light and siren, he accelerated."

The sheriff said one deputy ultimately made the decision to attempt a "forced vehicle stop" of Ketelsen into a median with trees, as he was headed toward the populated areas of Rocky Mount and Nashville on wet roads.

"The vehicle of the suspect went off the left shoulder of the road, traveled some distance down the road, and at that time he ended up against a tree and was partially ejected."

Stone said the first responding deputies attempted CPR but said he ultimately died.

The sheriff, during Saturday's press conference, read off numerous charges and convictions against Ketelsen that went back decades, adding that his most recent warrant came Thursday for bank robbery while he was on federal probation.

The sheriff said he was implicated in an armed bank robbery in Conover, North Carolina on Thursday followed by another robbery in Summerville, South Carolina on Friday.

While Stone didn't mention the attempted bank robbery that occurred in Camden, South Carolina, News19 has since learned from the city's police chief that evidence led investigators to believe that Ketelsen was also behind this incident.

In Friday's failed robbery, the suspect entered the First Citizens Bank on DeKalb Street and passed a note to a teller. Police said the teller passed the note back to the man who then left without any money. 

But photos and surveillance captured as he left were used to connect the Camden case to the others.

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