We're told he saw a car parked right in front of the building. He grew suspicious, and just after he walked in, his suspicions proved correct.
At 9:19am Thursday, a group of at least three robbers wearing masks and carrying guns walked into the grocery store and up to the Wells Fargo counter. They demanded cash. What they didn't bank on was Sergeant Mike Ellison walking in on the incident.
He's a 26-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff's Office. He was off-duty and wearing plain clothes, but carrying his service pistol and he drew down.
"There was an exchange of gunfire inside the bank," said Bob Haenel with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office. "The officer did shoot. I'm not sure how many times he shot, but he did exchange gunfire with the suspect."
But they fired back, hitting Ellison three times. Then they got away.
The 46-year-old husband and father was flown to Memorial Hermann Hospital, wounded in the leg, shoulder and back. His condition was listed as good, both before and after surgery. He is expected to be released from the hospital later today.
Ellison is a sergeant in the department's financial crimes unit. And when he's not on the job...
"Sgt. Ellison also happens to be a preacher on his off time," explained Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. "So we believe the good lord was looking out after him as well."
As law enforcement waited at the hospital, Texas Rangers, FBI, local police and sheriff's deputies all began their investigation. On Highway 99, possible evidence, perhaps a bag that could have been tossed out by the robbers was collected.
The store itself remained closed into the afternoon. One employee, who asked not to be identified, says she's scared to return.
She said, "They make us terrified because of what they don't have, and to put our lives in jeopardy because once you're shooting, bullets is flying everywhere."
The robbers remain on the loose. It's believed to be a group of four men, all were wearing masks at the time. They were seen driving a dark Honda sedan, last seen traveling on Highway 99. One of the suspects was seen wearing a white hoodie with a dark t-shirt underneath.
No other injuries were reported in the incident.
Information which leads to the apprehension and filing of charges on the suspects involved could earn a reward up to $5,000. Call Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office at 281-341-4665, Fort Bend Crime Stoppers, Inc. at 281-342-TIPS (8477) or text plus the tip to CRIMES (274637). Tips also can be submitted online at www.fortbend-tx-crimestoppers.org. All calls to Crime Stoppers are anonymous.
Andy Cerota's Reporter Notebook
I don't care how hot it is...a great run, even in this extreme Texas heat, is great for the soul and extremely cleansing. I was feeling fantastic after my mid morning run until I got home and started checking my work emails. One email, in particular, knocked the wind right out of me. There it was in black and white...Deputy shot during bank robbery...Sergeant Michael Ellison.
This wasn't just another news story. This was a big news story that involved someone I knew. A game changer, so to speak. Sergeant Ellison and I have worked together on several stories related to identity theft over the past couple years. Chances are, you've probably seen him featured on numerous occasions. He's my go-to guy.
I spoke to Sergeant Ellison on the phone tonight from his hospital bed. He was in good spirits and extremely lucid. He told me God was great and I agreed. It could have ended so horribly for him, yet I kept thinking to myself, here's a man who's been shot twice, a law officer, husband and father who's talking to me as if it were just another day. His voice didn't sound any different. Calm, cool and collected and grateful to be alive. Sergeant Ellison re-assured me he was okay, without actually saying those exact words.