Chad Austin: Where is the Bank Robber Now?

Investigation Discovery’s ‘Hostage 911: The Hostage Fights Back’ depicts how a brave father fought an armed home invader to save himself and his two kids in his Salem, New Hampshire, residence in early February 1998. The episode used police body camera footage and news clippings to demonstrate the carnage that Chad Austin released on the Hardy residence.

Who is Chad Austin?

On February 11, 1998, Chad Austin, then 24, was a young man with a chequered past and a long history of having trouble with law enforcement. He had a long criminal past, the most recent being serving time in prison for an assault charge. He was released from prison in October 1997 but was facing hardship again. His girlfriend had recently dumped him, was unemployed, and didn’t have the money to pay overdue court and probation fees. He had no family to help him as his biological father was also in prison.

Chad’s foster father stated, “He (Chad) was desperate.” The desperation showed when he donned a ski mask and black gloves and robbed Granite Bank in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, around 10:20 am on February 11 before fleeing the crime scene in a black Volkswagen Jetta. However, a Seabrook Police deputy chief spotted Chad’s escape vehicle and pursued him. Upon entering Massachusetts, Chad opened fire on police near the Salisbury exit on Interstate 95, firing approximately a dozen shots.

Over the ensuing half-hour, law enforcement officers from multiple communities pursued Austin through Newburyport, Rowley, Ipswich, Essex, Manchester, Beverly, and finally into Salem. He recklessly weaved through traffic, changed lanes erratically, and drove directly at police roadblocks, occasionally evading capture. When the pursuit reached the Veterans Memorial Bridge, Salem police established a roadblock on the Salem side, but Austin careened wildly from the breakdown lane, crossed traffic, and sped past them.

Patrolman William Walsh recounted, “When he went by, he looked at me and laughed.” After a high-speed car chase and more fire exchanges, Chad crashed on a bend on Proctor Street — a short distance from erstwhile Essex County corrections officer Paul Hardy’s residence. A certified instructor in defensive tactics, Paul lived on 9 Pope Street with his twin sons, Kyle and Kevin, then four. He, then 32, was lounging in his living room, watching TV, while the boys slept nearby. They had taken cold medicine and were drowsy.

After failing to break into a neighbor’s residence, Chad exchanged more gunfire with law enforcement officials before barging into Paul’s home. It was around 11:40 am when Paul heard a loud bang and saw a masked Chad standing before him, armed with a gun and a pink pillowcase full of money. In the following hours, Chad sorted and counted his money while expressing his regret about never spending it, as per police reports. He discussed the criminal charges he faced and estimated his potential prison sentence.

Chad Austin Remains Incarcerated Today

Chad made calls to family members, even conveying messages from Paul. At one point, he mentioned the sergeant’s wife’s upcoming dental appointment. Simultaneously, police repeatedly called him, and Chad claimed he could spot officers within shooting range, causing the officials to retreat. Eventually, a female FBI hostage negotiator established rapport, leading Chad to release the children. However, Kyle hesitated and returned to his father, resulting in a heartbreaking moment when Paul had to close the door on his crying son.

State police tactical officers, equipped with shields, cautiously approached the house and safely retrieved the young boy. More than four hours had passed with Paul being held hostage, and people familiar with the former Salem High wrestler believed it was only a matter of time before he took action. Moments later, Chad, seated on a couch, heard a noise in the kitchen, prompting him to turn his head. Sitting in a nearby chair, Paul made a sudden grab for the gun, resulting in a struggle during which the gun discharged twice without hitting anyone.

Paul head-butted Chad, who retaliated by biting him multiple times on the arms and back. He yelled, “I’m going to kill you,” while Paul responded, “No, you’re going to jail.” Shortly after, the sergeant dragged the armed robber towards a window to make their altercation visible to the police. The tactical team stormed through the back door, using a stun grenade and shooting Chad in the thigh. Dazed from the explosion, Paul leaped out of a front window. His wife, Gail, later stated Chad “picked the wrong house and the wrong guy.”

Chad was sentenced in Massachusetts state court on November 4, 1998, to a 30-40 year term of imprisonment for each of three counts of armed home invasion and received concurrent, shorter sentences for other state crimes stemming from this course of events. He was also convicted of federal bank robbery charges in 1999 and condemned to ten years to be served at the conclusion of his state sentence. However, he filed a motion in October 2006, arguing the original sentence was illegal.

News reports suggest Chad asked a judge for resentencing, arguing the day he was convicted, state law changed, capping the penalty for home invasion at 20 years. Erstwhile First Assistant District Attorney Jack Dawley informed Chad’s sentence was for armed home invasion, kidnapping, and other charges from 30 to 40 years to 19 to 20 years in state prison on December 26, 2006. Federal inmate records indicate the 50-year-old remains incarcerated at USP Hazelton and will be released on September 17, 2025.

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