By Julie Manganis
---- — SALEM, Mass. — An entire city was locked down, and police from all over the area, including Salem, were busy conducting a house-to-house manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect, on Friday.
Albin Antonio Tejeda decided that it would be a good time to rob a bank, according to police.
And not only did Tejeda walk into the Eastern Bank branch on Pickering Wharf in Salem demanding money, police said, he allegedly handed the teller a note claiming, “I am strapped with a bomb.”
“While law enforcement manpower was stretched to its thinnest ... this gentleman decides to rob a bank,” Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski told a Salem District Court judge yesterday during Tejeda’s arraignment on an armed robbery charge.
His claim that he had a bomb had employees terrified that they might even be dealing with an accomplice of the Tsarnaev brothers, the police prosecutor said.
“I cannot even comprehend the fear that must have been in those tellers’ minds,” Prosniewski said as he asked for bail of $100,000.
Tejeda, 23, of Everett, was caught because he took a taxi to and from the holdup, police said. The phone number of the cab company was clearly visible on surveillance video from Pickering Wharf.
Judge Robert Brennan granted the bail request after hearing details from Salem police Detective Daniel Tucker’s report.
It was just before 2 p.m. when the robber walked in with the note, which threatened that he would detonate the “bomb” if he didn’t get money, Prosniewski told the judge.
An employee quickly filled an envelope with cash, more than $11,000, including some “bait” money (money that is marked so that it can be identified later if used).
Surveillance images from the bank and from the nearby Pickering Wharf Marina quickly led police to the city of Everett.
The marina video included images of a man fitting the description of the robber getting into a white taxicab with a phone number and the name “Lucky 7.” Police called the cab company and learned that the owner had, in fact, just made a round trip to Salem.
But the cabbie had no idea that his passenger had just robbed a bank. His passenger, he said, had paid $28 of the fare, then told him he had to go into the bank. When he returned, he pulled $50 from a bag and handed it to the driver.
Salem and Everett police went to the area where the driver said he had picked up and dropped off the fare.
As officers were canvassing the neighborhood, they spotted a man fitting the robber’s description crossing Ferry Street, where Tejeda lives. The officers followed him.
Confronted as he stood in the living room of the apartment he’d just entered, Tejeda asked if police were looking for Tsarnaev, Prosniewski told the judge.
An officer asked him his cellphone number. It turned out to be the same one used to call the cab company earlier in the day.
Then officers showed him the surveillance photos from the bank. Prosniewski, citing Tucker’s report, said Tejeda started shaking, then denied recognizing the man in the photos.
Police initially arrested Tejeda on warrants in an unrelated Lynn case. After a search of his apartment turned up $9,500 in cash, an Eastern Bank envelope and a deposit slip showing that Tejeda had just made a $1,000 cash deposit to a Century Bank account that afternoon, after the holdup, he was charged in the Salem robbery.
Defense lawyer William O’Hare said his client denies being the robber and suggested that the identification of his client was weak, citing discrepancies between the description initially given to police and Tejeda’s appearance.
O’Hare also suggested that there are others in the multifamily apartment house where Tejeda lives who could have been responsible for the holdup.
And, O’Hare asked, “Why did they hand him a picture of himself?”
But after looking at the surveillance photos and at Tejeda, Brennan, the judge, said he’s “99.999 percent certain” that they are the same person.
The judge set bail at $1 million surety or $100,000 cash, which Tejeda, who yesterday qualified for a court-appointed lawyer, is unlikely to make.
A probable cause hearing is scheduled for May 16.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.