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Police: NYC Officer Shot Bank Robber in Midtown

VERENA DOBNIK   10/14/10 10:52 PM ET   AP

Chase Bank

NEW YORK — A 69-year-old man who was released from prison this week tried to rob a bank with a steak knife in one of the busiest spots in Manhattan on Thursday, then was shot in the leg by a police officer while trying to flee, authorities and witnesses said. The shooting sent pedestrians ducking for cover.

Uniformed police officers followed ex-convict John Daniel Stolarz as he fled from the Chase bank branch located right next to entrances to Madison Square Garden and Pennsylvania Station and shot him in the leg after he refused several orders to drop the knife, police said.

The shooting happened in front of an Amtrak loading dock, down the block from a heavily trafficked stretch of street. The man was taken to a hospital, where he was in stable condition, conscious and speaking to doctors, police said.

Stolarz was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, N.J., on Wednesday after serving about a 21-year sentence for armed bank robberies in Utah, Louisiana, Washington and Nevada, said police spokesman Paul Browne.

Stolarz's last known residence was in Seattle, Browne said.

Freelance journalist Ethan Harp thought he was hearing nothing more than the usual Manhattan construction noise when he heard a boom as he crossed West 31st Street. It was only once he heard a second boom that he ducked behind a truck.

When he emerged, he saw a man wearing a hooded jacket lying on the ground with three or four officers standing over him.

"He appeared to be awake and alert," Harp said of the injured man, while "the officer seemed very calm."

Browne said the man had entered the bank and demanded $50 and $100 bills from a customer service representative. After she told him she didn't have any money, he repeated the demand while brandishing the steak knife, Browne said.

When a bank manager approached, the man walked out. The manager followed him and alerted two officers in a parked patrol car, who followed the man into Penn Station.

The knife wasn't visible as the man walked past several shops and up an escalator to a less crowded area, Browne said. When the officers confronted him outside, he pulled out the weapon, he said.

Browne said the man refused several orders to drop the knife and continued to walk away. The officers confronted him again and, when he again ignored orders to disarm, one of them fired twice, striking him in the right thigh.

The man was carrying identification indicating he had been a federal inmate, Browne said.

After the shooting, police tape enclosed the bank and authorities closed off much of the block where the shooting took place.

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Associated Press writers David B. Caruso and Tom Hays contributed to this report.

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Filed by Jonah Green  |