JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A Northwest Jacksonville bank is grateful after an off-duty Florida Highway Patrol trooper stopped a robbery Wednesday afternoon, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
JSO said at 2:30 p.m., a man wearing a black sweatshirt and black pants walked into the Wells Fargo at 1336 W. Edgewood Ave. After standing in line, the suspect passed a note to the teller, demanding money, police said. The teller then put the note behind her back and alerted the manager.
Another employee told an off-duty FHP trooper who was working security for the bank. JSO said the off-duty trooper stood up from his desk looked toward the teller area, made eye contact with the suspect, walked up to him and took him into custody.
"It's really unusual for someone to walk into a bank when there is a police officer or trooper at the ready," JSO Lieutenant Derek Boucher said. It's kind of odd, but he must have been pretty desperate to walk into a place with an off-duty officer or trooper inside. The bank is very grateful."
The suspect was unarmed and no one inside the bank was hurt, according to Boucher. Police did not say the suspect's identity but said he will be charged with robbery.
FHP Master Sergeant Dylan Bryan said they have off-duty troopers hired to work security at banks all over the First Coast; he used to do it too. Because they blend in, they go unnoticed.
"The incident as a whole was very calm," said Dylan. "A lot of people talk about the cost of security, but it’s worth it, especially during the holidays."
He said this time of year can bring out the desperation in people.
Sgt. Bryan said he had an incident last year that exemplified that desperation. An elderly robbery suspect from Fort White said he needed money for home repairs and resorted to robbing a bank in Jacksonville. He was caught by Bryan on the interstate.
"He was very well known in the community too, that’s why he didn’t go there to do it," he said. "He said 'Everybody knows who I am,' so that’s why I stressed to him that that’s more opportunities to ask for help but he couldn’t swallow that big pill called pride."
Bryan said no matter what your situation is, you won’t be let off the hook. You’ll face the same charges regardless of your intentions.
"These individuals are wanting to provide for their families, but they don’t have the means so they are reaching out and preying on the weakness of others," he said.
While they do their part to help keep banks and other institutions secure, he strongly encourages families to invest in security systems of their own, especially now as theft and burglaries are on the rise during the holidays. He also encourages any banks that do not have additional security to do so.