GRAND FORKS -- A man suspected of robbing the Bremer Bank in Gilby, N.D., almost eluded authorities earlier this week when he and his companion temporarily duped a trooper during a traffic stop east of Detroit Lakes.
Trooper Clint Fultz said he saw William Randall Collins fly past him in a black Ford Ranger and stopped him for speeding late Tuesday night.
As 46-year-old Collins of Nashville, Tenn. was pulled over on Highway 10, he drove onto the right shoulder, made an abrupt stop and opened his door. When Fultz approached the pickup, Collins was talking on a two-way radio.
"I asked him what the emergency was, and while I'm asking him that, he's got his hand hidden, his hand behind the seat," Fultz said.
On edge, Fultz told Collins to put his hands on the wheel. Collins, who was alone in the pickup, said his wife was having a panic attack and that they were going to a hotel so she could calm down.
Shortly afterward, a woman driving a Chrysler arrived on the scene, frantically exited her car and went into the driving lanes, Fultz said.
"She's playing her part extremely well," he said. "They've convinced me she needs medical attention."
Fultz told them to go to a hospital, but before letting them go, he asked Collins for his driver's license.
"I think his words were, 'I plumb forgot it,'" Fultz said.
The two, however, did give Fultz their real names: Randy Collins and Debra Jensen. The pair then drove off in the pickup, leaving the Chrysler.
Fultz ran the pickup's license-plate number through his squad car's computer and realized the plate did not match the vehicle. The truck had been reported stolen from a Florida dealership, Fultz said.
Checking the Chrysler's plate, Fultz found an FBI warrant for Collins, who investigators had linked to that car. Such a warrant is rare, Fultz said.
"I've been with the patrol for 13 years, and I don't think I've seen an FBI warrant before."
Fultz said it took him less than four minutes to realize, "I just got hoodwinked."
Upset with himself, Fultz alerted emergency dispatchers to what had happened, and local lawmen were put on the lookout for the pickup.
"Ultimately, both parties made their way back to the Chrysler, which was being observed by law enforcement," Fultz said.
He said eight squad cars converged on the pair, and officers with guns drawn arrested them a couple of hours after the initial stop.
Fultz said Collins and Jensen claimed to be married, but he later learned they were boyfriend and girlfriend. The couple had come from the Morningside Motel in Frazee where Collins had given a false name, the trooper said.
Looking back on the initial stop, Fultz said the couple was doing what officers call "running interference."
"This was a complete farce," he said. "It was very well rehearsed."
Fultz reckons that if Collins had not given his real name, he would not have connected him to the warrant.
Collins was turned over to the FBI, which searched the pickup and seized several items, according to the patrol.
Debra Kay Jensen, 47, Grand Forks, was also taken into custody, but was released without being charged.
Collins was booked into the Grand Forks County Corrections Center on Wednesday evening, according to Sgt. Stu Quibell.
Collins made his initial appearance in federal court in Grand Forks on Thursday. He and Clifton Patterson, 63, are charged with bank robbery and using a firearm during a violent crime. Patterson, who had been living in Grand Forks, was arrested in June in Mississippi.
The pair is accused of stealing more than $50,000 at gunpoint from the Gilby bank on May 26.
At Thursday's hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal read the charges against Collins and explained his rights to him.
Collins said he understood his right to remain silent, that he'd earned a GED and could read some. Asked if he had any mental-health conditions, Collins said he wasn't sure.
He later told the judge he hears people talk to him, people who others say aren't there. Senechal asked if he was able to understand her, and he replied, "John F. Kennedy keeps talking to me, so I can't hear some of the things you say."
At certain times, he turned toward the empty chair on his left and appeared to be talking as though someone was sitting there.
Senechal ordered Collins to remain in custody, pending a detention hearing scheduled for next week.
Patterson, during his court hearings, has given illogical replies to judges' questions. Because of the uncertainty about his mental competency, Senechal has entered not guilty pleas on his behalf and ordered him to remain in custody. Authorities have said Patterson is acting the way he is so he'll be ordered to undergo a mental-health evaluation.
The maximum penalty for using a firearm during a violent crime is life in prison, and the maximum for bank robbery is 20 years. Federal law requires that such sentences be served consecutively.
Attorney DeWayne Johnston, who has been appointed to represent Collins, did not return a message left at his office Thursday. An FBI spokesman referred questions to the U.S. attorney's office, which declined to discuss the case.