1988 Bank Robbery Ends in Televised Chase and Deaths
Colorado car chase was one of first witnessed live

by Jess Brovsky-Eaker
Helicopter control panel

While Phillip Hutchinson was living under the stolen identity of Mark Taylor, neighbors described him as a “happy-go-lucky” guy who was “well-liked.” / LAW WEEK FILE

Years before O.J. Simpson’s famed 1994 car chase, a Colorado police pursuit was one of the first ever recorded police chases. Phillip Hutchinson’s 1988 bank robbery in Denver culminated in the death of a police officer, a bystander taken hostage, a televised police chase, a news helicopter’s highway landing  — which ended the chase — and the fleeing suspect’s death by police shooting.  

According to February 1988 coverage by the Associated Press, Hutchinson was known to Texas authorities “as a Marine deserter with a long criminal record, including escape, robbery, forgery and the ransom kidnapping of a 13-year-old boy, who escaped unharmed.” Hutchinson escaped the Texas Department of Corrections for the second time in July 1987 by hotwiring a truck and driving it through a prison fence, according to the AP.  

Hutchinson “had lived quietly since October [1988] under the name of Mark Taylor in a rented house in the mountain community of Bailey, southwest of Denver,” according to AP reports, until he broke the facade and robbed the Rio Grande Operating Credit Union in Denver. 

Denver FBI spokesman Dick Schussler said Hutchinson was investigated in connection with four other bank robberies in the Denver metro area during January and February of that year, according to the AP. 

On Feb. 9, 1988, Hutchinson robbed the credit union before fleeing the scene in a car, striking and killing Detective Robert Wallis during his escape. Minutes after killing the officer, the AP reported Hutchinson held a 73-year-old man hostage before forcing the man to drive his truck with Hutchinson inside and continuing a 20minute police chase. A CBS Denver helicopter, then called KCNC-TV, joined the police chase, eventually landing in front of Hutchinson in the truck and blocking his escape, according to the AP.  

After the helicopter blocked his exit, “officers then surrounded the truck and shot Hutchinson to death and rescued the hostage unhurt,” according to the AP. 

This article appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles from that issue, order a copy online. Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.