Horizon heist had Hollywood style plot

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VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - It was a casino caper that even Danny Ocean would have been proud to pull off.

In the wee hours of Nov. 9, 2003, a masked, armed man slipped in an employee entrance of Horizon Casino at City Front and made off into the cool, crisp pre-dawn blackness with about $60,000.

“That’s was the first and only robbery of a casino that we’ve had,” said Vicksburg Deputy Police Chief Bobby Stewart, who headed the department’s narcotics division in 2003.

In the more than 10 years since the daring heist involving arson, two bomb hoaxes and a threatening man with a pistol, no one has been charged, and the police have not named any suspect, Stewart said.

The theft - walk in, demand cash, walk out - is much simpler than ones concocted by Ocean - the fictional con man and casino heist mastermind portrayed in Ocean’s 11 by Frank Sinatra in 1960 and in the classic film’s 2001 reboot and sequels by George Clooney.

The cool calculation and cunning that went into Vicksburg’s unsolved casino caper rivals that of Sinatra and Clooney’s on-screen antics.

The robber obviously had cased the joint.

He entered Horizon, which later became Grand Station and folded in 2012, through an employee entrance near the second deck cash cage by holding a revolver to the head of a slot attendant who stepped outside on a break.

He told employees to cooperate because there were two bombs in the building, and police carried out a shoe box wrapped in duct tape that was hidden in a loading dock near where the robber fled into the darkness.

A similar tactic was used in Tunica the same year when a woman wearing a wig set a gift-wrapped package on the counter of casino and told the cashier to hand over money or she would detonate the bomb hidden inside.

That package was nothing more than an empty honey bun box, police discovered after she fled with about $60,000.

The Horizon robbers took it a step further though.

About an hour before the robbery, the robber or an accomplice called in a bomb threat to Rainbow Casino - now Lady Luck - four miles south. At the time, the two casinos were the farthest apart in Vicksburg.

At the same time the 5-foot 9-inch masked man wearing a Dallas Cowboys jacket was robbing the cash cage at Horizon, firefighters were battling an arson blaze at the former Jett Elementary School.

“We feel they were done as a diversion. It was all the same time,” Stewart said of the connection between the robbery, bomb threat and fire.

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