Editor’s Note: In the print version of this week’s Sheet, we named Richard Vernon Collins as the robber. However, in a follow-up phone call to MLPD Detective Doug Hornbeck on Friday morning, Aug. 16, he said he had taken Collins in for questioning, but was still doing some investigation. “He may not be my guy,” Hornbeck said. Right now he said he’s at a “standstill” but planned to issue a press release if anything changed.
We apologize for any confusion.
Americans have a longstanding fascination with bank robbers, particularly real-life bandits like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. In this fascination lies a certain identification with the robbers, romanticized as modern-day Robin Hoods, or as anti-heroes too cool to decry.
In real life, however, a bank robbery is rarely as romantic as an historical or film account. Union Bank teller Maricruz Mayon learned this firsthand on August 2, when a man approached her teller station, placed a leather bag on the counter, and slid a note across that read, in English and Spanish, ‘Robbery.’
“Don’t make any noise,” Mayon reported the man saying; “just give me the money in your top drawer.”
Mayon went through a rapid-fire thought process. “It’s so crazy,” she said; “you can think of a billion things in five seconds. I thought I’d pull the bag [away from him] and duck down and scream, but my two best friends were working with me, and I thought that if I do something stupid and one of them gets hurt, I’m going to hate myself forever.” Instead, Mayon made a gamble: she decided to give him $1,400, about half the amount of money in the drawer.
The man must not have noticed, she said. But what he did next, after he took the money, scared Mayon more than anything. He told her he had two men waiting outside, and that if she did anything, he was going to come back in. “I can talk about this now without crying,” Mayon said. “He had no emotion,” she recalled. “I felt sad for him. I wonder what happens in your life, that you’re so cold and mean, and scare someone, telling them you’re going to come back.”
Regardless of his threat, she pulled the alarm once the man had exited the building. Then, “I turned into a leaf,” she said. “I started shaking. I felt dizzy. I started crying.”
This was the first robbery at Union Bank in the memory of a 23-year employee of Union Bank, Mayon said. Detective Doug Hornbeck said that in his 15 years with the Mammoth Lakes Police Department there have only been two prior bank robberies in Mammoth, both committed at the Bank of American in the Rite Aid parking lot. “Both [robbers] got caught,” he added.
The man’s face was captured clearly by Union Bank security cameras. Detective Hornbeck recently issued a warrant for Richard Vernon Collins’ arrest for the Union Bank robbery; “Hopefully we’ll have him tonight or tomorrow,” he said on Wednesday. However after questioning Collins, he told The Sheet on Friday that he was unsure Collins was the right guy.
Mayon said that some people in the community have expressed incredulity that she handed over the money without the robber ever showing her a weapon. “First of all, it’s insured money,” she said. Tellers are instructed specifically never to play hero, but to cooperate instead.
Mayon, who was back to work the day after the robbery, said she would do things differently next time. “I would pull the alarm and then try to see where he goes,” she said. She wouldn’t play hero with the amount of money in the drawer, however. She would do as her boss told her: “‘If that ever happens again, give it all.’”