Man pleads guilty in plot to rob Palisade bank, faces 25 years

Surveillance footage from the former Palisades National Bank in Palisade shows the August 2011 attempt at armed robbery. Responding to a silent alarm, a Palisade officer walked inside the bank and was ambushed by the suspect, who took the officer’s gun. When the suspect walked away from the disarmed officer and into another room, the officer sprinted for the front door and the suspect gave chase. The door locked behind them. The suspect stole a bank employee’s van, abandoned it less than a quarter of a mile away, then disappeared.

A Palisade man, who held a police officer at gunpoint and took the officer’s gun during a failed attempt to rob a Palisade bank in 2011, pleaded guilty in federal court last week.

Jose Jimenez, 27, faces a maximum possible 25 years in prison and fine up to $250,000 after pleading guilty to a single count of attempted armed bank robbery, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver said Tuesday.

He’ll be sentenced July 23.

Jimenez, Bryan Morrow, 22, of Palisade, and Nicole Kozic, 25, of San Bernardino, Calif., were 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 renamed Colorado National Bank. At the time, authorities believed it may have been the lone robbery or attempted robbery of a bank over Palisade’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 and dropped Jimenez off 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 the 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 and a camouflage mask over his face, ordered the manager back inside.

A teller managed to discreetly 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 Jiminez ordered that 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. Attorney’s Office said. “The bank door was opened, and the officer asked, ‘Is everything OK?’ The manager discreetly 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-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.


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