Update: Wellesley police investigate bank robbery, suspicious device
Police are investigating whether an armed robbery at a Wellesley Hills bank Thursday and the discovery of a “suspicious device” outside a nearby Star Market minutes earlier are related. Police also said they are investigating any connection to similar events that occurred within the past week in Holbrook and Needham.
The connection between the Wellesley incidents is “under investigation,” Wellesley Police Sgt. Marie Cleary told reporters at a Thursday evening news conference at police headquarters. “Until the investigation is complete we won’t be able to determine whether they are in fact related or not.”
At roughly 3:45 p.m., police received a 911 hang-up call from the Star Market at 448 Washington St. When officers arrived on the scene, they spotted what they later described as “a suspicious device” on the outside of a pay phone. About 70 people were evacuated from the store and the neighboring Rite Aid as soon as the device was noticed.
About 15 minutes later, police received reports of a bank robbery at the Bank of America, located roughly half a mile away at 342 Washington St.
Surveillance tape video from the bank shows the suspect holding a gun and wearing a black ski mask. Another device was put down on the bank counter and the suspect then fled on foot to a car parked at the bank of the bank, Cleary said. Police do not know if the suspect had an accomplice or in which direction the car went.
The suspect is being described at 5 feet 9 inches, wearing dark clothing and a mask. Police provided no further information about the individual, the car or the amount of money taken, if any.
Part of Washington Street was shut down and yellow tape cordoned off the areas as police evacuated both buildings and the Massachusetts State Bomb Squad arrived on scene. A little after 6:30 p.m., police detonated at least one of the devices. Onlookers could hear at least three explosions and police saying, “Fire in the hole.” It was unclear if the detonations were at the bank or the supermarket.
On March 20, an elementary school in Holbrook received a bomb threat, which police said was meant to be a distraction from an armed robbery at a bank two miles away. On March 23, a suspicious device was found at a church in Needham.
“We are aware that similar types of incidents have occurred in those towns, so we will speak with those police departments to see if there are any similarities,” Cleary told reporters.
As the bomb squad used robots to inspect the bank and supermarket, crowds gathered outside the Bank of America. Many onlookers did not know what had happened and were asking others for information.
“I was riding [my bicycle] to home and I just saw a few policemen pop up and then block off this area,” said Thomas Siderwicz, 13, who was standing outside the postal office on Washington Street before the area was closed off. “I asked the policeman what’s going on and he told me to get away from the area.”
The last time a bank in Wellesley was robbed was about a year ago, according to Cleary.