FBI: East Tenn. bank employee, family taken hostage in extortion plot

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation said they are investigating after a bank employee, his wife and infant son were kidnapped at gunpoint in Knoxville Tuesday morning.

Investigators said the group forced the man to withdraw money from the bank where he worked.

The FBI said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference the incident began with a home invasion on the west side of town around 8 a.m. A large police presence was outside of a home on Swathmore Court where it is believed the family may have been kidnapped by two armed men.

An employee of SmartBank, his wife and infant son were hooded and restrained by two male suspects, placed in their own vehicle and taken to the SmartBank branch, 202 Advantage Place. The employee was told to go in and retrieve money from the bank, which he did, and give it to the robbers. The employee was left behind at the bank and the robbers drove away with the woman and child in their vehicle.

Neighbors tell us the family kidnapped is Tanner and Abbey Harris and their baby.

Abby Harris was then released unharmed on Fox Road. A witness told WATE 6 On Your Side a woman with a baby drove to a business complex on located at 123 Fox Road honking and crying, saying she had been kidnapped and taken to rob a bank. The FBI said the woman asked to borrow a cell phone to call 911.

The suspects are described as two white men. One was around 6 feet 1 to 6 feet 2 inches tall with a thin build. The other was around 5 feet 9 to 5 feet 10 inches tall with a stocky build. Both were wearing masks. They were armed with two handguns and one long gun.

The FBI is asking for anyone who may have seen the vehicle, a silver Mazda 6, driving erratically between the Rocky Hill and Cedar Bluff areas between 8 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. or in the Fox Road area between 8:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. should please contact the Knoxville Police Department at 865-215-7212.

FBI officials think there is a possibility Tuesday’s incident is related to one in April involving the CEO of Y-12 Federal Credit Union in Oak Ridge. Mark Ziegler’s family was held in a West Knoxville home before being released in the Gettysvue Country Club parking lot in an attempt to extort money from the credit union. The suspects, two male and one female, took off. No one was injured and no money taken.

Investigators are asking any bank employees to keep an eye on their surroundings. They believe the Harris family was being watched for a while before today’s events.

Neighbors of the Harris’ say they had not noticed anything unusual in their neighborhood.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s