Hartford Bank Robbed, Suspect at Large
From left: Hartford Police Officers Chris Aher and Jason Pedro, and Capt. Brad Vail examine tire tracks of a vehicle used to escape from a nearby robbery at People’s United Bank in White River Junction yesterday. Tim Keener of Advantage Towing, right, regularly plows the driveway and was asked to help rule out tracks not belonging to the getaway vehicle. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartford Police Sgt. Karl Ebbinghausen, left, and Capt. Brad Vail work at the scene of the bank robbery at People’s United Bank in White River Junction. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartford Police Officer Jason Pedro takes down the license plate number of a car in the People’s United Bank in White River Junction after interviewing the occupants.(Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — Hartford Police last night were in search of a suspect who robbed the People’s United Bank near the intersection of Routes 4 and 5 and across the street from the White River Co-Op food store on Maple Street, the second robbery to hit the cluster of banks along the business strip in less than a year.
Hartford Captain Brad Vail said that the suspect entered the building wearing a disguise and after exiting fled by jumping into the passenger’s seat of a blue pickup truck waiting in a nearby driveway. Police were overheard on radio scanner traffic describing the suspect as wearing a red hat, a tan coat, a taped-on mustache, and a “long wig.”
Police said in a news release issued late yesterday afternoon that the suspect got away with an undisclosed amount of cash and did not display a weapon during the robbery, although he indicated that he had one.
The police statement also reported that, prior to the incident at People’s United Bank, allegedly the same individual entered the Mascoma Saving Bank on Sykes Mountain Avenue at approximately 2:10 p.m., but “left immediately without any incident.”
Then, about 20 minutes later at 2:30 p.m., he allegedly entered the People’s United Bank. Around 2:45 p.m., a Hartford police officer was seen running toward the People’s United Bank with his rifle drawn. Thirty minutes after that, at 3:15 p.m., three Hartford police cruisers with flashing blue lights were at the scene and parked alongside a black, unmarked sedan in the bank parking lot. A police officer with a bullet-proof vest and badge drove a gold-colored Ford Taurus with New Hampshire plates along Maple Street past the bank.
Only a few yards southeast of the People’s United Bank, where the get-away car was allegedly parked, police were measuring what appeared to be the tire tracks in a residential driveway on Bridge Street.
Across Maple Street, the White River School went on lockdown from about 2:40 to 3:15 p.m, according to Hartford School Resource Officer Kristinnah Adams and White River Junction Principal Sheila Powers.
The school usually dismisses students at 2:45 p.m., but the lockdown delayed that by about a half-hour.
Adams said the lockdown was part of school protocol in response to nearby bank robberies, and everything went smoothly.
Word of the bank robbery quickly spread among workers and mid-afternoon customers in the area.
At the corner drug store, Denise Zera, who grew up in Boston, said that a potential robber could be encouraged by the location of “small banks” and the dual-state geography of the Upper Valley.
“People probably think, ‘Oh man, this is easy stuff compared to the city,’ ” she said.
Zera struck a somber tone as she contemplated what could have motivated the alleged bank robber.
“It’s desperate measures for people that do stuff like this,” she said.
And at the Hotel Coolidge downtown, Drew Peberdy, who began his shift at the front desk at 3 p.m., was taken aback when he first heard the news last night.
“That’s a brazen sort of crime for these parts,” he said.
Jessica Taylor, who works at The Junction Teen Center, said she saw two police cars zip past the front window earlier in the day. Taylor said the local teens, who were shooting pool and eating quesadillas last night, hadn’t been buzzing about the robbery that day.
At White River Budokai, owner Chris George took a break from practicing martial arts to talk about the robbery.
George said he drove past the bank earlier in the day and saw the police cars parked in front.
“Honestly, I assumed it was a bank robbery,” he said.
George’s assumption was not without merit.
In March last year, a man who police described as wearing baggy blue jeans, a black hooded sweatshirt, a black baseball cap, and ski goggles robbed the Mascoma Savings Bank across the street from where yesterday’s robbery occurred, making off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Vail yesterday said that there have been no arrests made in connection to the March robbery. He said that Hartford Police at this time do not believe that the robbery that occurred yesterday is connected to any other unsolved robberies in the area.
Despite all of the action, business went on as usual at the shopping complex that houses the White River Co-Op Food Store on Maple Street. Cathy Moloney, who works at the store, said that she didn’t notice any commotion before several police cars showed up.
Police yesterday afternoon questioned Chris Moye, a White River Junction resident who was near the bank shortly after it robbed.
Moye said the police told him they were looking for “someone that looks like you,” before questioning him and searching his backpack. Moye was cleared to leave shortly after.
“I’m glad to help them out, glad it wasn’t me,” he said. “Hopefully they catch the dude that did it.”
Ben Conarck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3213.
This article has been amended to clarify the location of the Mascoma Savings Bank branch that the suspect may have entered before robbing People's United Bank.