2 men charged in alleged bank robbery

June 4, 2007

Two men allegedly involved in a fatal South Side bank robbery were charged in federal court this afternoon.

David Vance and Henry Bluford are accused of robbing Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan, 8700 S. King Dr., on May 22 — a heist that killed 23-year-old bank teller and father of two Tramaine Gibson, and injured two others. A third suspect, 30-year-old Alton Marshall, appeared in court Saturday on armed robbery and gun charges.

The three men know each other through the Black Disciples street gang and from growing up together, according to charges.

A break in the case came when a person Marshall knew approached authorities. That person wore a wire on Marshall and drew potentially incriminating statements, according to charges. Marshall was then arrested and gave a video statement where he described the series of events inside and outside the bank, according to his charges. The two other robbers allegedly involved in the heist were subsequently arrested as was another person who allegedly stole the getaway car.

The bank’s surveillance cameras captured the robbery, but the men were completely covered, having worn gloves and masks.

In Marshall’s complaint, he allegedly said an accomplice grew angry when Gibson said he couldn’t open the vault. The accomplice shot Gibson in the buttocks then tried to get into the vault himself. When he couldn’t, the gunman dragged a bleeding Gibson toward the vault, according to the complaint. Gibson later died.

A bank security guard and a retired schoolteacher who was banking that morning were injured after robbers and the guard exchanged gunfire.

The robbers took a teller’s drawer containing $6,000 and drove to the 6600 block of South Wabash, where they dumped their stolen Oldsmobile. At Marshall’s home, they changed clothes and divvied up the cash, charges say.

'I didn't think he was bad enough to do . . . this'
MOTHER'S LAMENT | Son charged in deadly bank heist

June 7, 2007

Henry Bluford was just a youngster when he started down his long road of violence.

In the early 1990s, Bluford was kicked out of Englewood High School his freshman year for fighting too much, his mother, Evelyn, recalled. By 2001, he was convicted of assaulting Chicago cops.

Despite his troubled past, his mother was unprepared for what she saw on television this week: Henry Bluford, along with two other men, was charged with the deadly May 22 robbery at Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan at 87th and King.

"What the hell is going on?" Evelyn Bluford recalled saying to herself as she saw her son's name appear on the TV screen. "I have just cried a lot because it is a shock to me."

'I am just so sorry'

Federal prosecutors unsealed armed robbery charges Monday against Bluford, 29, and David Vance, 28. Another man, Alton Marshall, 30, was charged earlier. They all face a detention hearing next week.

Bluford, Vance and Marshall could all eventually face murder charges in the siege. Bank teller Tramaine Gibson was killed by gunfire, and two others were wounded.

Evelyn Bluford, 52, said that if her son is responsible for Gibson's death, she'd apologize to his family.

"I would just like to say to them, 'Sorry,' " she said, tears welling in her eyes, as she sat in a McDonald's restaurant. "I guess I would have never thought something like this could happen. I am just so sorry."

Henry Bluford had been in trouble with authorities as a teen for constant fighting, his mother acknowledged, "but he didn't listen to me."

Bluford is second youngest of four children. A brother is in prison on a robbery conviction, and Evelyn Bluford said she has a record because police found cocaine that belonged to one of her sons in her home about a decade ago. She now lives with a daughter who is a registered nurse.

Evelyn Bluford is a grandmother now. As a young single working mother, she struggled to rear her children in the Woodlawn community. Their father didn't help out. Henry Bluford had a lot of time without parental oversight, she said.

"He just got caught up in the streets," she said.

In addition to a conviction for assaulting police officers, Bluford has felony drug convictions and several misdemeanor convictions.

According to a criminal complaint in the bank robbery investigation, he had known Vance and Marshall through the Black Disciples street gang. Evelyn Bluford confirmed her son was affiliated with that gang, and that Vance is his friend.

'He was just a bad child'

The last time she saw Bluford was on Memorial Day -- six days after the bank robbery -- at his sister's South Side home. Evelyn Bluford said she had no idea then that he might have been involved in the high-profile heist. He is in federal custody, and she plans to visit him soon.

"I would like to know why," the weary woman said. "They said he did it, but I am really confused. He was just a bad child. But I didn't think he was bad enough to do something like this."