On the late December morning Salisbury Township Officer Budd Frankenfield performed what may have been his most heroic act on the job--- helping to catch one of three armed--- he had just stopped for a cup of coffee.
It has been nearly two months since that day, but the cop-on-a-coffee break cliché is not lost on Frankenfield, who laughs about it now as he recounts the events of December 30. The three suspects are scheduled to have a preliminary hearing February 17.
Tall, with a chiseled jaw and Marine buzz haircut, Frankenfield himself could be a stereotype straight out of Central Casting. But the bank robbery happened in real life, with real victims and real heroes. Frankenfield lets us in on the drama of that day.
He wasn’t supposed to work that day.
Frankenfield, who normally works nights, volunteered to fill in for a colleague. The shift was just starting and he knew he could use a little kick of caffeine.
What he didn’t know was that in the span of one morning he would go from holding a cup of coffee to pointing a rifle at a man wanted for an armed bank robbery, fleeing along the railroad tracks off Kline’s Lane near Rodale Publishers.
It started out as a routine day.
Frankenfield had gotten a large iced coffee, extra cream, extra sugar at Starbucks outside the South Mall, and was patrolling the west side of Salisbury. Around 9:20 a.m., Frankenfield heard a call crackle over the airwaves that got his attention. Suspicious males. Then: Three suspicious males wearing masks were seen entering the KNBT bank.
Frankenfield, who was on Lehigh Street near Bevin Drive, took off in his squad car and sped towards downtown Emmaus.
“I was on State Road and Harrison Street and I heard [Emmaus Police Officer William] Bryfogle yelling that he was being shot at,” he said.
Bryfogle rammed the back of the getaway car, disabling it near District Judge Donna Butler’s office. Three men jumped out and ran.
“I was the next car in town,” Frankenfield said.
By the time Frankenfield arrived at Kline’s Lane, Emmaus Police Sgt. Troy Schantz already had wrestled one of the suspects to the ground. But two others had gotten away. Emmaus officers saw Frankenfield.
“They just pointed up towards Rodale and said, “Go!”
Frankenfield dtrove through Minor Street and Keystone Avenue.
When he emerged he saw Emmaus Police Sgt. Karl Geschwindt and told him, “I’m going on foot.”
Then he stepped out of his car with his rifle.
“I headed toward the rear of Rodale. As I entered the tracks a black male suspect ran out on the tracks in front of me about 75 yards. I yelled for him to stop. He turned around and kind of looked at me and started running west on the tracks toward 2nd Street.”
Frankenfield reached down to the tiny microphone clipped on the second button of his shirt and started describing what he saw and where he was located as he continued running along the railroad tracks.
As he pursued the man, he saw Salisbury Township Police Officer Chris Casey pull onto the tracks ahead of them.
“I started yelling for Officer Casey over the radio: ‘He’s right on the tracks! To the right! To the right!’ ”
Frankenfield saw the suspect run off the tracks and in between a yellow house and a green house--- which he relayed over his microphone to his fellow officers in front of the house.
“I heard Sgt. Geschwindt yell a command to him to stop, to get down.”
Frankenfield emerged and saw the suspect prone on the ground, Geschwindt and Casey holding him at gunpoint.
As Geschwindt holstered his handgun, handcuffed the suspect and searched him for weapons, Frankenfield and Alburtis Police Officer Cory Fluck stood watch with their rifles poised. Frankenfield said he heard later the suspect had shot at Bryfogle from his getaway car.
When the day settled and the adrenaline stopped pumping, reality finally set in.
“You realize what happened and what you were a part of. You turn around and realize everybody is OK and realize it’s another day,” he recalls.
Frankenfield, who has been a police officer for more than 10 years, six with the Salisbury police department, still marvels at the unified response from state and local police agencies that day.
“We train for a reason,” Frankenfield said recently.
It’s moments like the Emmaus bank robbery when the instincts of a well-trained police officer, developed over years, kick in at the right moment.
“At Salisbury we do a lot of active shooter training and scenario work. This is the reason why we were able to do what we do.”