Lewiston bank robbed for 2nd time in 3 weeks


LEWISTON – A man who robbed the Bank of America on Sabattus Street on Tuesday jumped out of his getaway car moments later, sending the vehicle crashing into a house a block from the scene of the crime.

Police said the robber then climbed into a second vehicle driven by a woman, and the pair sped away and disappeared.

The 3:45 p.m. heist at the Bank of America was the second holdup there in less than three weeks. Police on Tuesday night were still searching for the robber and his accomplice in the incident, which caused a chain reaction of chaos in the Sabattus Street neighborhood.

Police said a lone man walked into the bank and demanded cash before fleeing toward Demi Circle at the rear of the bank. No weapon was shown, and the robber got away with an undisclosed amount of money, police said.

Moments later, a Jeep Eagle sped down Demi Circle, bounced across Russell Street and crashed into a house on the other side.

“There was nobody in the car when it crossed the street,” said Ronald Wheeler, a neighbor who witnessed the crash. “If a kid had been on that sidewalk, he could have been killed.”

Witnesses said the robbery suspect jumped into a gold Jeep Cherokee driven by a woman near the scene of the crash. Police were on Russell Street moments later, but the Cherokee and the pair inside were nowhere to be found.

Several police officers went to the Bank of America, which was briefly closed, to speak with victims of the afternoon heist. Others went to Russell Street to process the Eagle for evidence and to speak with witnesses there.

The rest of the officers, including those from nearby counties and towns, began searching for the Jeep Cherokee believed to be occupied by the suspects.

One woman who lives in the Russell Street neighborhood said she never saw or heard the car crash into the two-story house. Instead, she was alerted to the action when police, fire and rescue crews began to arrive with sirens wailing.

When she learned the Bank of America had been robbed, she quickly recalled the earlier stickup there April 5, as well as a spate of other robberies that have vexed police since November.

“God, it’s getting scary around here,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “It’s awful. It never used to be like this.”

Witnesses told police the man who robbed the bank was wearing a winter hat and sunglasses, a black sweatshirt, jeans and gloves.

“They’ll get him,” said the Russell Street woman. “The police do a good job.”

Later Tuesday night, Maine State Police were helping local investigators to track down the origin of the Eagle that crashed on Russell Street. Police said they were able to find a previous owner and were attempting to figure out whom the car was most recently sold to.

“All that is being tracked down,” said Lewiston police Lt. Tom Avery. “We do have leads that we’re following up.”

Police were exploring the possibility that Tuesday’s heist may have been committed by the same person who robbed the Bank of America earlier this month. In that stick-up, a lone man went into the bank, showed a handgun and demanded money before fleeing. That suspect has not been caught.

“There are similarities between the two robberies,” Avery said. “Right now, it’s too early to say if there is a link.”