Crawford Clarence never liked the idea of using an automated teller machine.

After hearing that a 55-year-old woman was shot and killed this week during a robbery at an ATM in a Columbia suburb, the North Charleston resident says he is even more convinced to just wait for the bank to open and go inside for his money.

Hanahan resident Jenny Keeter occasionally uses an ATM, but she has a few rules.

"I really try not to go at night, and if I do go at night, I take my husband," she said.

Daylight didn't save Lynne Thompson at an ATM outside the Bank of America in Forest Acres about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday. A man pointed a gun into her driver's side window, shot her several times, took off in her van and left her on the ground near the machine. She died later at a hospital.

Johnny Smith was at his bank on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston Thursday afternoon. He had heard about Thompson's shooting and decided this time to go inside the bank. But when he does use an ATM, he practices safety.

"I make sure my doors are locked," he said. "I'm close to the machine, and I'm looking all around the whole time."

Being aware of your surroundings is most important, said Sgt. Trevor Shelor, Charleston's crime prevention officer. He suggests patrons make a loop around an ATM area first, just to check things out. Keep going if you see something that makes you uncomfortable, he said.

If anyone approaches you while you're making your transaction, immediately drive away, he said.

"Whenever anything like that remotely happens, call 911 immediately to get police in the area," Shelor said. "Even if he didn't successfully rob you, then five minutes later someone else comes along."

ATM patrons are particularly vulnerable at walk-up machines and should avoid them, said Scott Woods, South Carolina Federal Credit Union president and chief executive officer. He said it also is unwise to visit a machine at the corner of a building.

"That creates a blind spot," Woods said. "Choose a machine that gives you the widest field of vision."

Have your bank card ready, complete your transaction quickly and drive away. Fumbling through your wallet or purse means your attention is diverted.

"Criminals make their living by trying to find the right person who is either not paying attention or just has so many things going on that they are distracted," Shelor said.

So what do you do if you find yourself facing an armed robber? Exactly what he tells you to do, Woods said.

"There is no amount of money that is worth endangering yourself," he said. "There is nothing (material) that can be taken from you that cannot be replaced, and you don't know the mental condition of some of these people. They can be under the influence of something that really makes them (feel) immune to consequences."

Shelor agrees that complete cooperation is the key to survival, but there is an exception, he said.

"Don't get in a car with them, ever," he said. "It might be that nobody will ever see you alive again."

Forest Acres police on Thursday made an arrest in Thompson's case.

Kendrick Nesbitt, 37, was wanted on a murder charge and was taken into custody when he returned to the Columbia apartment where he had been staying, less than a mile from where Thompson's van was abandoned. He also faces charges of carjacking, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and not paying child support, said Forest Acres Lt. Bryant Hinson.

Nesbitt's criminal record dates to 1989 and includes convictions for assault and battery, grand larceny and armed robbery.

He was released from prison in 2003 after serving 12 years of a 21-year sentence for five counts of armed robbery, a Corrections Department spokesman said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach Nadine Parks at 937-5573 or nparks@postandcourier.com.