GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - A suspected bank robber died in a wreck on Crowders Creek Road Wednesday afternoon following a police pursuit in Gaston County.
Two suspects, a man and a woman, fled from the PNC Bank on South New Hope Road after robbing the bank at gunpoint, police said.
Within minutes, officers spotted their car, and when they didn’t stop, police chased them. The pursuit ended in a fatal two-car crash.
Investigators told Channel 9 that the two people were involved in the bank robbery and that 54-year-old Stuart Bryson died in the wreck.
Relatives have identified the female driver as 25-year-old Erin Clark. She was taken to the hospital after having her hip dislocated.
Channel 9 spoke with Clark's grandmother, who said she had no idea her granddaughter was involved.
"If she was in jail, none of this would have happened," she told Eyewitness News. "I'm devastated. That's all I can say."
She said Clark has been in and out of jail because of drug addiction and had made connections with the wrong people. She told Channel 9 she wanted her granddaughter to stay behind bars for her own safety.
"I worried about her dying," she said. "Out there on that street, what do you do?"
Clark told her family she gave Bryson a ride to the bank and didn't know he robbed the bank at gunpoint until police got behind the as they drove away.
A store security camera captured a dark SUV driving south on Highway 321 with Gaston County police and Gastonia police officers behind them.
Clark was on probation and wearing an ankle monitor.
Clark told her family when she realized Stuart Bryson robbed the bank she took her hands off the wheel.
Clark told family that Bryson put his foot on the gas and grabbed the wheel.
They sped off with stolen money flying out of the window and crashed into a van with a woman and her two grandchildren inside.
"Surprised that she would do that,” the grandmother said.
“It's a difficult part of this job, but at the end of the day, we had an armed robbery suspect,” Police Chief Joseph Ramey said.
Channel 9 could see car parts scattered all over the pavement.
The woman and her grandchildren are fine, but Bryson died in the crash.
Bryson’s family said he was addicted to drugs and recently asked them repeatedly for money.
Last week, Bryson messaged his mother telling her his end is near.
The chase happened at the start of rush hour.
Gaston County police allow pursues for a serious or dangerous offenders, such as an armed robbery suspect.
A sergeant or captain evaluates factors like traffic volume and pedestrian traffic, road convictions and they can call off a pursuit.
The Gastonia community was stunned by the events that unfolded.
“It could've been worse,” Eric Wilson said.
Residents said the crash could have happened to anyone.
“Thankful that we weren't involved because we could've been,” Brandi Nivens said. “My family lives all right here.”
“That's the difficult part. It's challenging for all of us,” Ramey said.
“It's just one of those situations where it didn't have to happen,” Wilson said.
Police said they were going to watch surveillance videos from the bank.
Gastonia police are investigating the robbery, the Highway Patrol is investigating the crash and Gaston County police are reviewing the chase.
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