Tom Justice was an Olympic cycling hopeful. Tom Justice’s life didn’t work out quite the way he’d hoped. Tom Justice found an unlikely escape hatch: bank robbery, but just for the thrills — not the cash. In October 1999, he robbed his second bank, the Lake Forest, Illinois, branch of Northern Trust, escaping by bike with over $3,000. He put the cash in paper bags and left them in spots where homeless people would find them.

He eventually robbed 26 banks of nearly $130,000 before descending into drug addiction. Steven Leckart‘s story in Chicago Magazine is as engaging and cinematic as one could want for this sad, twisted Robin Hood of a tale.

But before he could flash his lights, the cyclist pulled over and hopped off his bike. When Thompson pulled up, the guy was fidgeting with his back wheel. It started to drizzle again.

“Can I talk to you for a second?” Thompson asked through the open window of his patrol car.

“Hey, yeah, sorry, it’s gonna take me a second,” Tom said, continuing to tinker.

Thompson parked a few feet ahead, turned on his flashing red and blue lights, and walked back to the cyclist.

“I live in San Ramon. I’m riding home,” said Tom, pretending to adjust his brakes before climbing onto the bike and clicking his left foot into the pedal.

“Do you mind if I take a look in your bag?” Thompson asked the cyclist.

“Yeah, no problem. I just have to unclip,” replied Tom. “These pedals are actually counterbalanced, so I need to click into both in order to get out at the same time.”

There’s no such thing as counterbalanced pedals. But Thompson didn’t know that. He watched as the cyclist lifted his right foot, clicked down into the pedal, and — whoosh! — bolted into the street in a dead start as hellacious as any Tom had ever mustered on a velodrome.

“I knew it!” cried Thompson. He desperately grabbed his radio, but another officer was talking on the channel. The cyclist shot down Main Street and out of sight.

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