Officers chase, nab suspect in bank heist
Alert shoppers and diners and quick-thinking bank tellers helped officers catch a robbery suspect Saturday in Clifton and recover the money.
Steven Joseph Erichsen, 25, was arrested on suspicion he robbed the Wells Fargo Bank, 3231 Interstate 70 Business Loop, around noon. Erichsen also was being held on suspicion of theft between $1,000 and $20,000, tampering with evidence, felony menacing and criminal impersonation, according to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.
According to Erichsen’s arrest affidavit, deputies found a backpack with clothing and a wallet in the main part of the backpack, and $13,010 in bills in another part of it. A jacket in the backpack looked like that worn by the suspect in bank surveillance photos, the affidavit said, and the wallet contained Erichsen’s driver’s license and Social Security card.
Witnesses and police said the suspect sprinted across a busy I-70B intersection, went across a hotel parking lot and a trailer park, scaled two fences and then attempted to stash a backpack in a semitrailer parked a few blocks away.
Shoppers and diners pointed and yelled which way to go for two Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputies, who ran after the suspect in the populated area. The Wells Fargo bank is two doors down from the Sheriff’s Department Clifton substation in the Peach Tree Plaza.
According to the affidavit, the robber handed a teller a note with the following on it: “THIS IS A ROBBERY I have a gun In My Pants Wasit. I will shoot you In The Head If any alarms go off. You have 60 Seconds To Put All of your Money from Both Drawes Top & Bottom In the Bag.”
The teller told police the robber handed her a grocery bag to put the money in. She said she did not see a gun, but that the robber had his hand by the waistband of his pants while he waited for the money.
The teller estimated she put approximately $11,700 in the bag, the affidavit said. She also placed a packet of red dye in the bag, a color that bled through the money police found in the backpack. Deputies said they saw the same red color on Erichsen’s hands after he was arrested.
Erichsen was arrested by deputies in the parking lot of the trucking company Roadway Express, 3207 F Road, about 15 minutes after the robbery. When a deputy in a squad car drove toward him, Erichsen stopped and put his hands in the air, then went to the ground and started banging his head on the ground. The deputy had his gun drawn as he approached Erichsen, the affidavit said.
Erichsen was taken by ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital for breathing problems. He had been banging his head against a barrier in the back seat of a patrol car. Before being placed in the patrol car, he had vomited on the sidewalk.
Erichsen has a criminal history in Mesa County dating to October 2004, when he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of damaging property valued at $100 to $500, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Erichsen was arrested again in January 2005 on a felony charge of using drugs. He pleaded guilty to that charge and was sentenced to two years probation in August 2007. Erichsen racked up a dozen counts of failing to appear for court and was arrested most recently May 7 by Grand Junction police for a probation violation, according to the CBI.
It’s not often in Mesa County that bank robbers are caught immediately, but “bank robbers are always caught,” sheriff’s Cpl. Pat Arotin said.
A Grand Junction man, James Jones, 45, who robbed First National Bank of the Rockies of about $5,000 in October 2007, in addition to other local businesses, was not arrested for the incidents until months later.
Similarly, police needed more than a week to connect Grand Junction man Mitchell Reeves, 27, to the late May robbery of Vectra Bank before arresting him on suspicion of the crime.