“I got confused,” the first-time robber admits.
The sleepy town of Pompeii, Massachusetts was jolted awake, today, when a brazen bank robber burst into the local Wells Fargo bank on Main Street and demanded money. The bank had just opened and there were over three-dozen clients inside. Eagle-eyed bank teller Jason Lloyd spotted the gunman and managed to push the secret alarm button, so he knew police were on the way.
“I really didn’t need to sneak around to the button,” he recalls. “The robber’s eyes were all over the place. It looked like a Ping-Pong game.”
Once inside, the robber told everyone to get down on the floor. Since many of the patrons were elderly, their response was slow, at best. Surrounded by moans and groans, dropped canes, missed walkers, runaway wheelchairs and cries of “now, remember how the doctor showed you to do this,” the robber broke down.
“Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP! ALL of you! Get out! GET OUT, NOW!”
The would-be hostages paused. “Can you repeat that?” one asked.
“GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT, NOW!” the robber screamed.
CRISIS IN POMPEII
Police Detective Lance Bitski, picks up the thread. “I had been told there was a hostage situation, so we come wailing up to the site, hardcore, right? I mean, we were fishtailing like crazy. We knew we had four other units behind us. Hostage negotiators. Even a SWAT team.
“I get out of my car and run-up to this crowd of people, yelling ‘Get out of here! This is a hostage situation!’ This old guy in a walker smiles at me. His name was Phil. ‘Mmmmm. Not really. We’re the hostages.’
“I didn’t know how to react. ‘Then, who’s left inside?’ I asked. Phil shrugged, ‘the robber. And he’s armed.’”
The shortest tense standoff in criminal history.
Bitski didn’t know it at the time, but he would helm the shortest tense standoff in criminal history. 90 seconds. TV crews screamed up to the site in vans. They wouldn’t even have time to set up before it was all over.
Recalls Phil the almost-hostage. “I was telling the policeman about the robber still being in the bank when, suddenly, the robber kicked open the bank’s front door. ‘Everybody stay back! Don’t make a move. I have demands.’ The policeman didn’t even look up. He was on his phone when he had to cancel the hostage negotiators. But the policeman managed to reach the SWAT team before it left for our scene. He was pretty upset. A lot of people gave him grief. Two police cars just drove away, the cops inside flipping the bird towards the bank. Then, I looked at the hostage.
“Feeling ignored, he picked up his gun and pointed it at his own head. ‘If my demands aren’t met? I’ll kill me! Don’t push me, because I will!!!’”
NEGOTIATIONS BREAK DOWN
“That’s pretty much when I had had enough,” says Detective Bitski. “I turned to this little slug and yelled ‘What are you going to do if we come in, shooting?’ The robber considered this before declaring ‘I’ll kill myself before you can come in.’ I returned to my paperwork. He began yelling, again, pacing up and down in front of the bank, gun to his head. ‘Attica! Attica! Attica!’ While I appreciated his film knowledge, I was forced to yell back. ‘We don’t care if you kill yourself. Make up your mind. If you don’t kill yourself, we will.’”
At that point, the robber tossed his gun onto the street before him and started singing and dancing “Baby Shark.”
“I’d say that was a fitting ending to this cock-up,” says Bitski, “plus, my video of it has gone viral.”
“Man, I screwed that up,” says the would-be robber.
Now in a holding cell, would-be-robber-be-hostage-taker Ron Gottfried is embarrassed. “Man, I screwed that up,” chuckles the 25-year-old former school counselor. “I thought I could pull it off. Since I lost my job, I watch reruns of ‘Law & Order’ 24/7. I thought I could learn from those crooks’ mistakes.
“Before I went to the bank, I even wrote a list of things to do once I got there. But, of course, me being me, I lost the list. It’s still probably at the Burger King I stopped at. I got confused. So, I went into the bank kinda-sorta remembering what was on the list. Boy, did I screw up on ‘Take everyone hostage.’ That should’ve been at the top of the list.”
He’s pleased to hear about the popularity of his performance of “Baby Shark,” though.
“When I’m released?” he muses. “Maybe I can have a whole new start in show business. I love kids, despite the restraining orders.”