One year ago yesterday (Friday, April 10, 2009) a disguised robber walked into the Community Bank on Hosley Avenue in Tupper Lake; brandishing a silver handgun, he ordered everyone to the floor, took an undisclosed amount of money from the teller and fled on foot in the direction of Saranac Lake.
He has never been found. From my best news sources in Tupper Lake, which may not be very reliable, he got away with about $25,000 ... hardly enough to set up housekeeping on St. Thomas.
A video clip from the robbery on April 10, 2009 at the Hosley Avenue branch of the Community Bank in Tupper Lake depicts the robber, who hasn’t yet been captured.
S.L. bank robbery
Now contrast that robbery with this one at the Charter One Bank (now Community Bank) on Broadway in Saranac Lake on Tuesday, July 26, 2000. At about 11 a.m., a guy walks into the bank, no disguise, hands the teller a hand-written note, says there is a bomb in the bank and fled the scene with $4,000.
Four hours later the arrest is made. He is a 17-year-old who was identified at the time, but I am going to John Doe him here because he may have later been granted youthful offender status. He was charged with first-degree robbery, a Class B felony, and fifth-degree possession of stolen property, a misdemeanor.
The police had a fairly easy time of it since he had family in the area. There were many tips about spotting the guy as he walked up the railroad tracks and others called about seeing him behind houses near the tracks. When his family was contacted they talked to the kid and arranged for him to meet the police.
He was arrested without incident at the intersection of Edward Street and Indian Rock Trail in Saranac Lake.
How did the Tupper Lake robber get away?
Duh? Well, Dude, if we knew that answer maybe we could solve the crime. All anyone knows is that he walked away toward Saranac Lake. My theory is that he then walked into the woods, turned the other direction toward Long Lake and kept on walking until he got to Cold River; once there, he rebuilt Noah Rondeau's camp and is still living there, waiting 'til the heat's off.
In reality, the Tupper Lake police and the New York State Troopers were on the scene very quickly after the robbery. Someone close to the investigation told me that even with the quick response there was probably time for the robber (who must have had an accomplice in a waiting car) to get past Saranac Lake before roadblocks could be set up.
Excerpts from the Enterprise
"Police described the suspect as a white male, about 6 foot, 2 inches tall and 150 pounds, wearing a hooded Carhartt jacket, sunglasses, blue jeans and gray sneakers. He was wearing what appeared to be a fake mustache and goatee.
"There was a massive search with police combing the nearby woods and highways, looking for evidence and going door to door interviewing people living nearby. State Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers and Saranac Lake Village police were assisting in the manhunt, searching nearby trails, and helicopters manned by forest rangers and Tupper Lake village police could be seen in the sky."
Then there was this note added to the robbery story: "There have been at least three unsolved bank robberies in the last three years, according to the Watertown Times. The latest was on Jan. 8 when a man held up the SeaComm Federal Credit Union and escaped with $221,500. Two men robbed the same bank on Dec. 21, 2006 and stole $270,000. A lone man robbed an NBT Bank in Canton in June 2006."
The serial numbers on the bills were widely circulated at the time so maybe by some twist of fate one of those bills could still lead to the robber.
The good news is that no bank employee or customer was injured during the robbery.
(Source: The "Crimes" file in the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library, containing clippings from the Enterprise.)
(This is the first in a series of bank robbery stories.)