Fake beard-wearing bank robbery suspect identified as Wentzville man

ST. LOUIS – Charges were filed Tuesday against a man who police say was involved in a very unusual bank robbery case. It started with a weird disguise and ended with the suspect jumping off a bridge into the Missouri River.

Police said the suspect, 44-year-old Austin R. Denson, remains hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

“It surprises me a lot. Now, I’ll be locking my garage,” said Bridget Hollocher, Denson’s neighbor.

Denson is charged with three counts of first-degree robbery, three counts of armed criminal action, one count of resisting arrest, and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar said even though he’s suspected of robbing one bank, there’s a reason for three charges of robbery.

“We have three different victims in the bank: he got the manager and two tellers; they were all approached at gun point,” he said.

“He was a very jovial neighbor. Always said, ‘hi,’ seemed fine,” said Laura Reinken, another of Denson’s neighbors.

Something apparently went wrong in Denson’s life.

Wearing a bushy fake beard, police said he robbed the Gateway Metro Federal Credit Union Monday on Jungermann Road. Security camera photos of him were released and a St. Charles County business gave authorities a good tip.

Police went to his home here on Glenshee Drive in Wentzville. Witnesses said he was pulling away as they arrived.

“As soon as he got up the street, we saw these unmarked police cars converge on the car,” Reinken said. “They ordered him to get out and stop. He slowed down for second, opened the door, but then speeded away.”

Denson finally pulled over on the Blanchette Bridge and he apparently jumped into the Missouri River and survived. St. Charles City and Pattonville Firefighters deployed rescue boats. The suspect claimed he had a gun but never showed it. After building a rapport with an officer, the suspect surrendered. He was pulled from the water and taken into custody.

Police said about half of the $21,000 stolen was recovered from his home, along with a gun police believe was used in the bank heist.