By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — A rash of bank robberies in the city continued yesterday morning when a man held up an NESC Federal Credit Union branch on Pleasant Street.
The man, whom police said is between 5-feet-6-inches and 5-feet-9-inches tall, showed a handgun when he robbed the bank, located at 244 Pleasant St., at 10:45 a.m. yesterday. He was wearing dark sunglasses, a gray hooded sweatshirt with black stripes and the sleeves cut off, a dark baseball hat, a white long sleeve T-shirt, baggy blue jeans, tan work boots and black gloves with white printing.
“This is an alarming trend,” Police Detective Lt. James Jajuga Jr. said. “We’re utilizing all available resources in an effort to combat this.”
The suspect demanded money from two tellers and fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash. Jajuga said police do not know whether a vehicle was involved. No one was injured, and the bank notified police.
Three grammar schools, the Timony, the Tenney and Comprehensive, instituted a brief perimeter lock down yesterday after the robbery, Superintendent Judith Scannell and Police Chief Joseph Solomon said. That means no one was allowed into the schools, which typically are locked, and no one was allowed to leave. Solomon said the measure was only precautionary, and did not change or disrupt anything going on inside the schools.
“We have no information he went near the schools,” Solomon said of the suspect. The school resource officers remained in the buildings, and no additional officers were assigned to the schools, though more were sent to that area of the city to check other banks.
Scannell said police Sgt. Jack Walsh, who oversees the five school resource officers, called her and recommended the perimeter lock down because of the robbery and because the suspect was armed. The measure started just after the robbery was reported, Scannell said, and lasted about a half hour. It did not affect dismissal.
The School Department sent a voice message to parents of students at those grammar schools alerting them of the lock down. Scannell said parents of students at Marsh Grammar School and Methuen High School also received a call explaining what a perimeter lock down is and why those schools were not locked down.
Police met with representatives from the 19 banks located in the city on Monday, where they reviewed what to do during and after a robbery and offered suggestions on preventative measures to put into place.
“I’ve been visiting banks this morning talking to them,” Solomon said yesterday afternoon. “They’re already in the review process. This just happened too quickly.”
Jajuga said police are not certain whether the previous robberies are related, but they are investigating that they could have been committed by the same person or a group of people.
A TD Bank branch at 91 Pleasant Valley St. was robbed at gunpoint at 7:45 p.m. March 1. That suspect is a man between 5-feet 8-inches and 6-feet in height with a medium build, and he wore a dark jacket with a hood pulled up, black gloves and had a white T-shirt with two holes cut out for eyes covering his face.
The man walked into the bank with the gun and told the teller to put money in a bag, not say anything and not place exploding ink packs in the bag to mark the bills.
He then left the building and got into a vehicle a witness described as a silver Honda, though police said the vehicle could have been a different make with a similar body style.
Another TD Bank was robbed Feb. 21, this one at 547 Broadway at about 6:30 p.m. A man wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, dark jacket and a T-shirt with a single large face hole cut into it over his face. He showed a handgun and demanded money from the teller.
He got into a white Nissan and headed south on Broadway toward Lawrence. There were two other people in the getaway car, police said.
On Jan. 30, a man, who stood about 5-feet 7-inches, robbed the TD Bank branch at 228 Haverhill St. at 12:15 p.m. wearing dark sunglasses, a dark hoodie, a baseball hat and a goatee. The man told the teller he had a knife, but did not display a weapon, police said. He asked for 100s and 50s. Police were not sure at the time whether he fled in a vehicle or on foot.
Anyone with information on yesterday’s robbery or any of the bank robberies this year should call Methuen police at 978-983-8676. To see surveillance videos of the robbery, click here.
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