Saturday, February 14, 2015

49 Minutes In October: Could The FBI Have Saved Walker Police Officer Trevor Slot?

Trevor Slot.jpg
Officer Trevor Slot


By Brandon Hall   
(Email him at

On October 13th, 2011, 49 minutes after F.B.I. special agent John King called Muskegon County Dispatch saying there "might be" a bank robbery in Ravenna, Walker Police Officer Trevor Slot was dead. 

15 minutes after King's call, robbers indeed showed up at a Ravenna bank, subsequently killing Slot, striking him with their vehicle during a high-speed chase.

As I drove on the stretch of highway dedicated to Slot recently, I asked myself, did this sign ever need to be here?

"Officer Trevor Slot Memorial Highway."

I just couldn't stop thinking about this case.That sign. The family. The chaos of that day.

That's because as the four year anniversary of the death of Walker Police Officer Trevor Slot approaches, vital questions remain unresolved in a case as complicated as it is tragic.

Just as important: what are we doing to make sure what happened in this case never happens again? Don't we owe it to Slot's legacy and the family members who cherish his memory to make sure we do all we can to ensure no other officer suffers the same fate?

No one wants to reopen a painful experience for a family, though that may be a side effect of this story.

However, the family has shown they understand the importance of keeping Officer Slot's memory alive, and I hope they understand why this story was written. Through the Trevor P. Slot Foundation, 5k runs, social media, and more, Officer Slot's family and friends have shown the man made a deep impact on them. They are committed to keeping his memory and spirit alive.

Recognizing Slot, the legislature passed and Gov. Snyder signed legislation designating a portion of I-96 to him. That's where I found myself earlier this week, and memories of the case were instantly resurrected.

First, here is how things went down according to some great reporting of Ken Kolker from WOOD TV 8.

"The bank customer smiled at the man who greeted her at the front door of the ChoiceOne Bank -- even
though he was dressed in black and carried a big gun.

"I saw these two guys dressed in black and I just really thought it was a
Halloween joke, and I saw the guns, but they weren't real," customer Ellen Karsten told 24 Hour News 8.

"Is this a Halloween joke?" she asked the men.

But the guns were real.

"I was thinking, I don't have time for this."

Then, the men forced her into the vault with the tellers -- women she considers her friends. And, the robbers told her she wouldn't get hurt.

That, she says, is when she knew this was real.

"All my friends' eyes said they were afraid."

Target 8 obtained bank surveillance video that provides the best view yet of the Oct. 13, 2011 robbery that led to a deadly chase. The suspects later ran over Walker Police Officer Trevor Slot before they were shot and killed.

The robbers called each other Frank and Jesse -- apparent references to the Wild West bank robbers and brothers, Frank and Jesse James.

They were really Kristopher Cheyne and Derryl LaFave, already suspected of bank robberies in Moline.

The surveillance video shows a time stamp: 10:36 a.m. as the two pushed through the front doors of ChoiceOne Bank.

Tellers later described the "shorter one" -- apparently Lafave -- as the aggressive robber. They described the other as polite.

Target 8 also has learned the Chevy Blazer they used as a getaway car had been stolen the day before in the city of Walker. The owner had left the keys in the console.

After forcing tellers into the vault, the robbers went through the cash room,
and through teller cash drawers. It's not clear how much they took.
They repeatedly asked about dye packs, and threatened to return.

The customer said she tried to help the tellers, with humor.

" I really believe I was supposed to be there because I wasn't nervous at
all, and I kept thinking, I've got to make these gals laugh," Karsten

The video also shows a second customer who walked in as the bank robbers were leaving.

A third customer pulled up to the drive-through window just as the robbery was ending, and reported it to police.

Within 5-and-a-half minutes of walking in, the robbers were escaping in that
Blazer. They dumped the getaway car behind a foundry just north, then
took off in a blue Oldsmobile Bravada.

What they didn't know was that FBI agents had somehow gotten in front of
them. Less than 30 minutes later, the robbers struck and killed Officer
Slot, then were shot and killed by police."
Some how, eh? Some how, indeed. As it would turn out, far more was happening behind the scenes with the FBI than the public-and even local law law enforcement themselves-were led to believe.

Ken Kolker of WOOD TV 8 subsequently revealed:

"When FBI agents suspected that Kristopher Cheyne and Derryl LaFave were planning to rob a bank, they asked the state police to send help.

But the FBI left local sheriff's deputies in the dark.

State police sent four troopers from at least 29 miles away, while at least five local officers were just minutes away, without a clue of what was about to happen, according to new documents obtained by Target 8.

The robbery on Oct. 13 at the ChoiceOne Bank in Ravenna quickly turned into a chase — with shots fired that threatened state and local police, as well as the public.

And, it ended with the deaths of Walker Police Officer Trevor Slot — killed in the line of duty — and the suspects just 34 minutes after the bank was robbed.

Ottawa County Sheriff Gary Rosema said that if his department had been given the same warning as state troopers, 20 minutes before the robbery, it could have sent help and set up a roadblock.

At least four Ottawa County deputies were no more than 10 miles south of the bank when they heard the robbers were heading north into Muskegon County in a black Blazer — away from Ottawa County.

Those deputies were unaware that the suspects had switched into a blue Bravada and that a chase had entered their county, according to reports obtained by Target 8.

One of the robbers fired a rifle at an Ottawa deputy — punching a hole in the hood of the patrol car — as the deputy tried to set up a last-second roadblock in Coopersville.

More than three months after the robbery, Target 8 obtained what police are saying are the last of the reports on the case — a total of 360 pages.

"These local officers were imminently placed in harm's way by virtue of being out of the informational loop," Michael D. Lyman , a nationally recognized law enforcement expert and trainer.

He reviewed the case at the request of Target 8.

Lyman has testified as an expert witness in more than 350 civil and criminal cases involving police. He teaches at Columbia College of Missouri and has written five books on police procedures.

James Wedick , a former long-time FBI agent who received the FBI Director's Award, also reviewed the case at Target 8's request."

>>>He concurred with Lyman. And as it would turn out, the FBI's mistakes were far more than just merely failing to inform local officers. They were tracking the robbers EVERY move via phone and car trackers, and even called local police, requesting "yo, if a couple guys we are watching rob a bank, please let the FBI know."

Well, the FBI ALREADY KNEW a robbery was imminent and subsequently, likely knew where it would occur given their extensive surveillance. They could have stopped it themselves-they didn't. They could have notified local law enforcement just minutes away, enabling them to act-they didn't.

Instead, they played games, lying about why they were in the area at first and even calling Muskegon County dispatch asking for a heads up if the robbery they knew was in progress occurred. How Orwellian, jeez.

.Though are not inherently responsible for Officer Slot's tragic death, they seemingly could have likely prevented it.

A crime website summed things up nicely:

"This is a story where miscommunication, and lack of willingness to share crucial information, resulted in the death of a police officer. The controversy surrounding this incident is primarily directed at the FBI.

FBI agents knew of a bank robbery before it occurred, but they were keeping the details to themselves.

The FBI contacted Muskegon County (Michigan) dispatchers to warn them about the possibility of a bank robbery. FBI Resident Agent in Charge, John King, had called the Muskegon Dispatch Center at roughly 10:20 a.m. to alert them to a bank robbery that was about to occur – 16 minutes later – ChoiceOne Bank was robbed.

“Hey, this is John King with the FBI in Grand Rapids,” dispatch tapes recorded. “We are right now tracking a couple individuals up in the Muskegon County area around Ravenna. And so, if there happens to be a bank robbery come out, can you make sure we end up getting a phone call?” The FBI had been tracking the two bank robbers with a GPS tracking device placed on the suspect’s car and on a phone.

Although the FBI had placed a GPS tracker on the suspect’s vehicle, they did not provide a vehicle description when asked by a Muskegon dispatcher.

Dispatch tapes also show that one of the FBI agents appeared to know beforehand that suspects Derryl LaFave and Kristopher Cheyne were going to be in a black Chevrolet Blazer that they used as their first getaway car. The Blazer had been stolen the day before the robbery. The suspects abandoned the Blazer, which had the GPS tracker, not far from the bank before escaping in a blue Oldsmobile Bravada.

“We had our suspects in there before the bank robbery, so I’m sure that’s it,” FBI Task Force member Pat Harig told a dispatcher. At the time, he was discussing the Blazer. Harig told dispatchers the FBI had been tracking the suspects into Ravenna through GPS, and they wanted to keep that a secret. “Without putting this on the air, we have GPS on the vehicle and on a phone,” Harig told a dispatcher. “We do not need that on the air.”

In the weeks after the robbery and deaths, FBI agents said little about their involvement. At first, they told the Muskegon Chronicle they happened to be in the area. The dispatch tapes show the FBI had tracked the suspects into the area before.

“We’ve got a couple individuals we’ve been tracking that we think are responsible for a couple other bank robberies down south and they’ve been putzing around in Ravenna the last couple of days,” King told a dispatcher...

The tapes appear to show that at least two unmarked FBI cars didn’t quite make it to the ChoiceOne bank before the robbery and that the agents did not witness the robbery. One of the unmarked FBI cars ended up ahead of the getaway blue Bravada as it headed south toward Coopersville.

More miscommunication ensued because nobody told Ottawa County deputies the Bravada was headed into their county — behind the FBI agents — until it was already in Ottawa County. It was an Ottawa County dispatcher who had to call to find out: “Hey, it’s Ottawa County. Can you advise an update?” “Yeah, they’re in your county, now headed southbound,” a Muskegon dispatcher responds.

After the robbery, the suspects led officers on a 20-minute high-speed chase. The suspected bank robbers opened fire on the officers from their getaway car. The chase ultimately ended when the suspects ran over Walker Police Officer Trevor Slot as he was trying to lay down stop sticks. Police officers then shot and fatally wounded the suspects in a shootout.

Just before the shooting, as FBI Task Force member Pat Harig was on the phone with dispatch telling them he didn’t want this “over the air,” the dispatcher tells him that “shots” had been fired from the suspect’s vehicle at a Michigan State Police trooper trailing them. The dispatcher then asks Harig, ““Do you know their names and where they’re going?” Harig then gives the dispatchers the suspects names and details of their height and weight as the chase continued.

By the time the FBI was willing to share crucial information, it was too late, Officer Trevor Slot died minutes later."

 Key questions remain, though we will probably never get them answered.

Questions that must be answered, though, include:

-what are we doing to improve real time communication with local law enforcement during crisis situations?
-has the FBI addressed this issue in administration, training and other areas?

-was this a fluke, or does this happen more often than one would think?

SO many more questions...

I know the FBI does a lot of good things, and this isn't meant to be a total bashfest on the work they do.

However, no one is perfect and no organization is, either-especially ones that comprise the federal government. The FBI has demonstrated the need for significant improvement in this arena, and I hope other media outlets with more extensive resources will inquire with the FBI as to what they have done since that deadly fall day in October, 2011.

Rocky Moiuntain Tracking writes:

"Of course, none of this information came out right away. When suspects and officers are killed, there is always a lengthy investigation.  However, knowing that both the Michigan police officers and the FBI agents all had the common goal of keeping the residents safe, one would think that the FBI could have been a little more forthcoming with information that could have helped put an end to this situation before it escalated to the level it did.  Maybe if they had worked together from the start, the deaths could all have been avoided and the suspects would be facing a judge for their many crimes."



Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.
>>>Email him at 


Photo By Darlene Dowling Thompson

1 comment:

  1. There is a whole lot on record that wasn't mentioned, no one wants to speak up, especially if it doesn't reflect the spin the authorites spoon fed the press to justify the execution that followed the needless and awful death of Trevor Slot, who was struck as he suddenly ran directly into the path of the suspects vehicle traveling at over 120 MPH. It doesn't mention the additional pain a bewildered and completely devasted family had to endure, but hey we deserved it based on the picture that was painted, right?