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Crime

BLOOMINGTON — Customers blocked the door of a west-side restaurant early Friday to keep armed robbers from entering a second time, one customer was pistol-whipped during the initial robbery, and one of the gunmen accidentally shot himself in the hand, police said.

Two men are in custody after the incident. A third remained at large Friday afternoon. The Pantagraph does not name suspects in such cases until they are formally charged in court.

Police were called about 2:20 a.m. to Steak n' Shake, 1001 Wylie Drive, after the men entered the restaurant. Two demanded customers' wallets and one man pistol-whipped a customer who refused. The third suspect demanded employees open the business safe.

Two of the men tried to go back into the restaurant immediately after leaving, but customers blocked the door, police said. One suspect struck the door with his handgun, which discharged into his hand.

The three men then left on foot.

“As far as I know, they did not leave with any money,” said restaurant manager Mark Peterson. “I think they got scared because there were too many people in there.”

One of the doors to the restaurant was shattered when the suspects fled, causing between $500 and $1,000 in damage, Peterson said.

The manager said he was just glad none of the employees were hurt because “nobody here is going to risk their lives for money.”

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A Normal police officer later attempted to stop a speeding vehicle near the intersection of Ropp and Raab roads, but the driver did not stop and officers did not pursue.

Officers later found the same vehicle parked in the 200 block of Saratoga Road in Normal. Evidence in the vehicle connected it to the robbery, police said.

A police dog tracked the robbery suspects, finding one man who was taken into custody on preliminary charges of armed robbery and discharge of a firearm.

About 3:45 a.m., a person with a gunshot wound in his hand was reported to have checked into a local hospital. Bloomington police identified the man as one of the suspects and took him into custody. He faces preliminary charges of armed robbery and discharge of a firearm.

The third man remained at large, and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to call McLean County Crime Stoppers at 309-828-1111.

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Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.