Rookie and a robot thwart bank heist |

Rookie and a robot thwart bank heist

F.T. Norton
Cathleen Allison / Tribune News Service / A member of the Tahoe-Douglas Bomb Squad cuts a backpack off a suspected bank robber Monday afternoon during a more than three-hour standoff at Wells Fargo Bank in South Carson City. A robot was used after the robber claimed to have a bomb in his backpack.

An off-duty Douglas County jail deputy in line to make a bank deposit foiled a robbery Monday when he overheard a South Lake Tahoe man demanding money from a Wells Fargo teller.

Deputy Ignacio Gonzalez, with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department for just five weeks, told investigators he held suspected bank robber Saul Galicia, 19, at gunpoint inside the bank, located at 2424 S. Carson St.

At about 1 p.m., Galicia allegedly directed a bank teller to fill a bag with money, said Detective Bob Motamenpour of the Carson City Sheriff’s Department.

“Give me all your money or I’ll blow this (expletive) bank up,” Galicia demanded, according to Motamenpour.

Galicia claimed he had a bomb in his backpack and initially balked when the Douglas deputy demanded he get on the ground, but eventually Gonzalez was able to bring Galicia outside and hold him at gunpoint until other deputies arrived.

Once Galicia was in handcuffs, he spent the next three hours lying face-down on the sidewalk in front of the bank’s doors, sniper guns trained on him. Employees and customers escaped through the rear doors.

About 4 p.m. a Reno Police Department bomb squad member, escorted by a robot, approached Galicia, who remained still for much of the time he was lying there.

After the bomb squad officer cut the straps on the backpack, he left the area, and the robot gingerly removed the tan satchel from Galicia’s back. The robot’s claw-topped arm could also be seen removing wires from Galicia’s clothing.

When the backpack was removed, Carson City deputies moved in and arrested Galicia to a smatter of applause from onlookers.

The backpack was destroyed with a shotgun blast, said Sheriff Ken Furlong. No bomb was found inside, just wire and other harmless items, he said. A BB gun was also found on Galicia, Furlong said.

“I’m relieved that (Gonzalez) reacted and the incident did not cause anyone to be harmed,” said Furlong. “Do you take action inside the bank? Do you take action outside the bank? That’s a hard call to make.”

Motamenpour said Galicia’s vehicle was impounded a block away. During an interview with investigators, he allegedly said he got the idea to rob a bank from a movie.

Southbound Carson Street traffic was stopped at Fairview Drive about 2 p.m. Northbound traffic from Koontz Lane was stopped about an hour later. The highway was reopened about 5 p.m.

Galicia is being held in the Carson City Jail on suspicion of felony bank robbery. A judge ordered he be held on $250,000 bail.

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