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DUTZOW, MO (KTVI) – A  Missouri Highway Patrol trooper was shot in the chest in a shoot out with a suspected bank robber. The trooper’s body armor saved his life. The gunman was wounded.   A witness to the bank robbery played a big role in helping police.

It happened around 9:20 a.m. Friday at First State Bank in Dutzow, Missouri.  Police said a 64-year-old man walked in with a handgun. He told bank tellers to give him the top layer of cash from their trays as well as the $50 and $100 bills from the vault. He threatened to kill them and instructed them to make sure no dye packs were included in the money. People who live in the small community were stunned.

Resident Dale Guss said, “Kind of surprises me because it’s a pretty quiet town.”  Chris Guss added, “I worry we’re a small town, and that’s probably why they picked us. They figure we’re less protected than the city.”

A witness was outside the bank in her car watching everything.  She alerted police and gave them a play by play. The suspect drove off. It all ended minutes later on Highway F in St. Charles County just south of New Melle.  A trooper spotted the getaway car, pulled it over and a shoot out began.  Sgt. Al Nothum, a spokesman for the highway patrol said, “The male subject got out and began shooting at the trooper. The troper, he was struck in the chest, pretty much right in the chest here by one of the bullet from a round from his handgun. The trooper returned fire striking the subject.”

The body armor saved the 26-year-old lawman’s life. He was treated and released from a local hospital.  Experienced officers say the trooper did a fantastic job.  Nothum added, “Everybody is kind of breathing a sigh of relief, it comes down to the training. We have a great academy in Jeff City.  You’re there for six months and do this over and over again. I’m sure that training kicked in after he did what he had to do.”  Chris Guss said, “Takes a lot of guts to be a trooper nowadays. The kid and the bad guys they don’t seem to care about anybody.”

A patrol spokesman described his colleague as sore and a little shaken.  He will remain on administrative leave for a few days which is normal procedure.

Trooper Juston Wheetley said the officer, who has served three years with the Highway Patrol, is very grateful for the bullet resistant vest.  “Obviously we go through our entire careers wearing these vests and hoping we’ll never have to see how they work,” Wheetley said.   “It is unfortunate he got to see that first hand, but fortunate enough that it worked he came out without any injuries.”

Officers go through extensive training to deal with potential shooting incidents.  Wheetley said he thought the young man’s training kicked in when he faced the danger.  “If it’s gonna happen, this is the best outcome for that situation to come out with your life cause that’s the goal at the end of the day to come out alive,” Wheetley added.

The patrol is not releasing the trooper’s name.

Authorities say $40,000 was stolen.  Police won’t reveal if the suspect’s gun and the stolen cash were recovered, but they did say they found a lot of evidence. The CEO of First Bank released a statement commending the trooper for his bravery, his valor and his professionalism in the face of grave personal danger calling it truly inspiring.  The condition of the suspect is unknown.