A $3, 380 bank robbery in Edgartown Tuesday morning led to a high-speed chase and a bizarre showdown in the woods near county airport runways between police with guns drawn and a man firing arrows from a high-powered bow.

The man, later identified as 35-year-old William E. Sweeney of Tisbury, was quickly arrested after tense moments during which police say they almost opened fire.

The episode began on a warm, sunny day when Mr. Sweeney allegedly threatened to spray the face of Dukes County Savings Bank teller Cathy Frank with sulfuric acid from a squirt gun if she did not hand over all the money in her drawer. It ended in the dramatic showdown in the woods only 49 minutes later.

Mr. Sweeney was declared insane in 1979 by a Dukes County superior court judge following an incident in which he threatened a group of citizens on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven with a filleting knife. On May 30, 1979, Judge Joseph S. Mitchell Jr. found Mr. Sweeney not guilty for reasons of insanity and ordered him sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for evaluation.

Yesterday morning Mr. Sweeney was arraigned in Edgartown district court on charges of armed robbery, two counts of assault with intent to murder, driving to endanger, failure to stop for a police officer and speeding.

His case is under joint investigation by the district attorney, the state police, the Dukes County sheriff and by police departments in West Tisbury, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Chilmark. The case has been continued to April 16, and Mr. Sweeney was committed to Bridgewater for examination. He is being held without bail pending the outcome of the examination.

“I didn’t think anything like this would happen on the Island,” said Miss Frank minutes after the incident, which began between 10 and 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. The tiny woman, who has curly dark hair and dark eyes, wore a long-sleeved pink cotton dress that day and sucked on a lollipop as she repeated her account to curious onlookers.

“He came in with a heavy tweed coat, which was odd for the weather. He walked over to one of the counters and filled out a withdrawal slop. He walked up to the window and said, ‘Read the note on the withdrawal slop.’ It said ‘This is a stick-up. Hand me all the money in your drawer or I’ll squirt you with sulfuric acid.’”

According to eyewitness accounts from two other tellers on duty with Miss Frank at the time of the robbery, no customers other than Mr. Sweeney were in the bank. He concealed his right hand in a small blue bag that allegedly contained the squirt gun, according to teller Jane Rossi.

Miss Frank continued: “He asked for twenties and fifties. He gave me a brown paper bag. ‘That’s enough,’ he said when I gave him all of it. Then I pushed my alarm.”

After Miss Frank sounded the alarm, wired to the Island Communications Center, she retreated from her station and walked directly into the office of Edward E. Mayhew, bank president, according to teller Wendy Rose.

Of the suspect, Wendy rose said: “He sort of loped out the door. Then I knew something was wrong.”

According to state trooper Dan Flynn, the suspect climbed into a 1977 blue Ford Torino station wagon and drove off.

The suspect was spotted driving out of Edgartown with a passenger in the car, said Trooper Flynn. At a press conference at the state police barracks Tuesday afternoon, officials said they were satisfied that Vineyard resident David Dube was no more than a material witness to the incident.

A. Robert Duart, an Oak Bluffs police officer, was on duty near the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in his cruiser when the station wagon passed by at a high speed on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.

“I followed him. He turned left on Barnes Road, the airport road. I followed him past runway 24 and I could see a cruiser on the other end of the road. He saw the cruiser and turned into Art’s Auto Body.”

Officer Duart followed Mr. Sweeney on the dirt road to the auto body shop. At about 10:30 a.m., he saw the suspect leave the car with a weapon, he said.

“I didn’t know what it was. I assumed it was a shotgun,” he said.

Eight police cruisers converged at the airport industrial park by the auto body shop. They included 14 officers from the Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Tisbury and West Tisbury police departments, officers from the Dukes County sheriff’s department, state police, and an environmental police officer, said Edgartown officer Richard D. Krauss.

A roadblock was set up in the area and Edgartown police chief George L. Searle devised a search pattern through the woods. Police were positioned on the Martha’s Vineyard State Forest fire lanes.

A trio of officers led by acting West Tisbury chief Jeffrey S. Manter stepped into the thickly wooded area to search for the suspect. Officer Duart and Edgartown Officer Krauss followed behind, with pistols drawn. Chief Manter entered with a shotgun drawn. The officers at the time still did not know what kind of weapon Mr. Sweeney had, Trooper Flynn said.

What followed in the next few moments became the last dramatic and tense point in the caper, with Mr. Sweeney revealing a compound hunting bow, the officers poised to fire and the ultimate surrender to Trooper Flynn, who faced the suspect unarmed.

“I saw Skip hit the ground. He called out to us on the radio that he had been shot at with a bow and arrow,” said Officer Krauss.

Mr. Sweeney allegedly fired two arrows at Chief Manter.

The chief said: “I didn’t stand up to see. One went to one side. The other went very close. Right when he fired I ducked and I could hear it go over me. I can’t describe it, it happened so fast.”

“I was afraid for my life,” Chief Manter admitted.

“I had to make some quick decisions, literally, in a matter of seconds. He was so close. I couldn’t run away or seek better cover,” the chief added. They were about 30 feet apart.

As Mr. Sweeney reportedly went for the third arrow, Chief Manter tried to stop him.

He said:

“I called him by name. I knew of his past. We engaged in conversation. He stopped pointing the arrows at me. He rested it on his lap. I was throwing out anything to break the tension, to break his train of thought about what he was trying to do.”

Officer Krauss said:

“If he had raised the bow one more time that would have been it.”

He added: “Skip talked to him and got him to stop shooting the arrows. He brought the situation down very well.”

In two minutes Trooper Flynn made his way to the scene.

He recalled: “It was a very tense situation. Sweeney was kneeling down and Chief Manter and officer Duart and Krauss were all standing behind oak trees pointing their revolvers at him. I tapped Duart on the shoulder. I started walking toward the suspect with my hands extended outward, indicated I was not armed.

“Sweeney started saying, ‘Nobody wants to listen to me. Nobody listened to me yesterday. Nobody wanted to listen to me today.’

“We began to talk and he was saying a few things. He picked up an arrow, an aluminum shafted arrow with a very large point on it. He broke it in half and he threw it out. He picked his bow up and threw that out. Then he stood up. I asked him to keep his hands in sight. He walked out, he leaned up against a tree. We had a five-minute conversation.”

Of the cooperation of the group of law enforcement officials, Officer Krauss said: “It was a great joint effort. Everyone was working as a team rather than running all over the place. Every officer there used good restraint.”

Chief Searle and Officer Krauss drove back to the bank to collect reports from tellers and other bank employees. Mr. Mayhew greeted them immediately and asked if the officers recovered the money.

Deputy Police Chief Stephen B. MacKinnon, who had stayed at the bank throughout the capture, assured Mr. Mayhew the cash had been recovered.

Chief Searle said: “I’ve been too busy dodging arrows.”

Not far from him, near the wall where a quilt of a grandmother character robbing a bank hangs, employees gathered around Miss Frank, who had regained her composure and cheerfulness. Mr. Mayhew said the quilt was a gift from the Vermont Shop.

Miss Frank, a 20-year-old Island-born resident of Vineyard Haven, said she is engaged to Stephen Morris, whom she said was next on her list of people to call after she was reassured by her mother in a phone conversation following the robbery.

She has worked at the bank three years, she said. “I packed my makeup bag this morning, something I usually don’t do. I must have known I was going to cry today.”