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Plumber with rifle nabs suspected bank robber (WA)

The Daily News (Longview, WA) ^ | Jan 06, 2005 | Sally Ousley and Leslie Slape

Nearly 36 hours after sheriff's deputies and officers began a manhunt for a Portland bank robbery suspect, an unemployed plumber caught the man and held him at gunpoint Wednesday night.

Steven W. Driffill, 56, of West Valley, Utah, was apprehended about 5:30 p.m. at a residence in the 4400 block of Kalama River Road. Police believe Driffill robbed a branch of Sterling Savings in northeast Portland Tuesday and is the man who led them on a 100 mph chase up Interstate 5 to Kalama Tuesday morning.

When Leon Dalsing saw someone run behind a wood shed near his parents' home, he ran into the house, grabbed a .30-06 rifle, loaded it and ran out the front door. He confronted a man wearing a baseball cap and ordered him to his knees, he said.

Meanwhile, his mother, Helen Dalsing, called 911, and Cowlitz County sheriff's deputies Brad Bright and Tory Shelton arrived a few minutes later to find Driffill on the ground with Dalsing holding him at gunpoint, according to Helen Dalsing.

Deputies found a 9 mm automatic pistol in Driffill's belt, according to Charlie Rosenzweig, chief criminal deputy for Cowlitz County. Rosenzweig said Driffill, who was soaking wet and had spent an icy night along the Kalama River, offered no resistance. Deputies believe that he spent some time in the river and crossed it at some point.

Rosenzweig said Driffill complained about being cold, but he warmed up after he received dry clothes at the sheriff's office. He then was turned over to the FBI, which took him to a federal jail.

Authorities would not say whether Driffill had any stolen money. Investigators say Driffill may have been involved in Nov. 24 robberies in Tigard and Eugene, Ore.

Rosenzweig said Driffill was arrested three miles from an abandoned Ford F150 pickup found Tuesday in the 1300 block of Modrow Road. The truck is the one involved in Tuesday's chase.

"We received lots of tips, and this really paid off," Rosenzweig said, touting the "spirit of cooperation between the public and the sheriff's office that continues to pay big dividends in solving cases like this."

Authorities had distributed fliers and warnings in the area, and Leon Dalsing said news reports had made him aware of the continuing search for a robbery suspect. After watching the evening news Wednesday he went outside to get the keys out of a pickup.

"I went out toward the wood shed, and my dog came unglued, barked and started chasing someone. I turned tail, ran to the house and grabbed a rifle."

When he got back outside, he saw a man walking down his parents' driveway. He thought instantly it might be the robbery suspect.

"I asked him what he was doing, and he said his truck broke down and then he kept walking. I told him 'I didn't think so' and that he better get down on his knees or this thing's going to go off. I meant business. I kept him down until the sheriff got there. I was thinking, 'I think I got the bank robber.' "

Dalsing said he thought the suspect might be armed, and that's why he got a gun.

"I've been brought up that when you pull a rifle on someone, you better mean business. I hope it's the only time I have to do this."

Dalsing said he is relieved to know the robbery suspect is in custody.

"Everyone can sleep better tonight," he said.

Dalsing, 40, lives in Camas with his wife and three children. He is an unemployed plumber.

His mother, Helen Dalsing, said she has had enough excitement for a while.

"We actually locked our doors last night, and we hardly ever do that."

She said Leon is an avid hunter and knows how to handle guns. "It all turned out for the best," she said. "We got rid of a bad guy."

Helen Dalsing said she wasn't frightened.

"I thought about getting my own gun, but I had hip replacement surgery and I don't get around like I used to."

Before Driffill's arrest Wednesday, residents of the area thought that he'd managed to escape police --- and temperatures that dipped to about 20 degrees overnight.

"He ain't nowhere here. No one wants to stay on this mountain," said Floyd Green, who lives at the end of Modrow Road.

"(The weather) froze my hose to my horse trough," he said Wednesday. "The wind comes off both rivers, the Kalama and the Columbia, so it's cold out here. No one's gonna stay outside."

Green's neighbor, Mary Lord, agreed.

"I think he's long gone, personally," she said. To make sure, she let her Rhodesian ridgeback dog sniff all around her property Tuesday.

"He was not really interested in anything," she said. "If somebody had been there, he'd be all over everything that they touched."

More than 50 officers from several law enforcement agencies were involved in the search. Authorities still had not obtained clearance to search the suspect pickup as of Wednesday afternoon, according to FBI spokeswoman Beth Ann Steele.

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Authorities still had not obtained clearance to search the suspect pickup as of Wednesday afternoon, according to FBI spokeswoman Beth Ann Steele.

Wonder if that is beacuse there is a stash behind the seat the owner thought was safe from discivery??
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