Man pleads guilty in plot to rob Palisade bank
A Palisade man who held a police officer at gunpoint and disarmed the officer during a failed attempt to rob a Palisade bank in 2011, pleaded guilty in federal court last week.
Jose O. Jimenez, 27, faces a maximum possible 25 years in prison, and a fine up to $250,000, after pleading guilty last week to a single count of attempted armed bank robbery, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver said in a release. He’ll be sentenced July 23.
Jimenez, Bryan Morrow, 22, of Palisade, and Nicole Kozic, 25, of San Bernardino, Calif., were all indicted on suspicion of involvement in, or knowledge of, an attempt to rob the former Palisades National Bank, 600 W. Eighth St., on Aug. 20, 2011. The bank has since been re-named Colorado National Bank. Authorities believed the incident may have been the lone robbery or attempted robbery of a Palisade bank in the town’s 119 year history.
According to stipulated facts in Jimenez’s plea agreement, Morrow drove Jimenez from Morrow’s home in Palisade to the bank on the morning of Aug. 20. Morrow dropped off Jimenez around 8:30 a.m., while Morrow positioned his vehicle to watch outside of the bank. The men had two-way radios.
The bank’s manager around 8:25 a.m. entered the bank from a side door, before opening to the public. Per his normal routine, he checked around before letting inside two waiting tellers through the front door, then went back to side entrance intent on retrieving items from his car. When the bank manager opened the door, he saw work boots underneath the apricot trees by the back door, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Jimenez, who authorities said had a gun in his right hand, wearing a black hoodie covered by a reflective work vest, a camouflage mask over his face, ordered the manager back inside.
A teller managed to discretely push a silent alarm.
Staff were ordered on their knees and told to place their hands on the wall; a third teller arrived at work and Jimenez ordered she be let inside. She soon joined the others on the floor, while Jimenez went through her purse and took her car keys. He asked what kind of car she drove and she told him it was a white mini-van.
An employee retrieved money from the vault and Jimenez ordered the money must be spread out on the counter; an attempt to ensure it contained no dye packs.
Morrow, meanwhile, using the two-way radio, told Jimenez someone was coming to the front door. It was a responding Palisade police officer.
“Jimenez cocked the weapon and took the manager to meet the police officer,” the U.S. Attorneys Office said. “The bank door was opened, and the officer asked, “is everything OK? The manager discretely shook his head “no” and the officer saw Jimenez.”
The officer was held at gunpoint on the ground; the gun’s muzzle grazed the officer’s head.
Jimenez took his gun.
“The officer’s radio was on, and dispatch was requesting a status check,” federal authorities said. “Jimenez told him to tell dispatch everything was fine, which he did.”
When Jimenez briefly walked away, the officer ran for the front door and called for backup. Jimenez pursued but the bank’s door locked behind them both.
Jimenez fled in a mini-van, using the keys he’d earlier taken from one of the bank tellers. He eventually ditched the mini-van less than a quarter of a mile away at 37 1/10 and G 4/10 roads, where he was picked up by Morrow. They sped away.
Police responding from across the Grand Valley searched the area, but found nothing.
“Mistakes were made, policies were not adhered to,” former Palisade Police Chief Carroll Quarles later told The Daily Sentinel “For the seriousness of the mistakes that were made, this could not have turned out any better: Nobody was hurt, no money was stolen and the only thing damaged here is the pride of the officer and the reputation of the Police Department.”
Morrow, who is in custody, is scheduled to be sentenced April 30.
Kozic was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly lying to an FBI agent while authorities were trying to locate Jimenez in Washington state. Authorities claimed she had knowledge of the robbery plot.