By Doug Ireland
---- — NEWTON — When Police Chief Lawrence Streeter received a call yesterday about a robbery at Merrimac Savings Bank, the last person he expected to hear from was his wife.
Head teller Cindy Streeter was one of three employees working at the South Main Street bank when a man, with a red New England Patriots hat pulled down over his face, passed a note to another teller that demanded money
The man, who rode up to the bank on a green mountain bicycle, had leaned the bike against a pole and nonchalantly walked inside, the police chief said.
The robber did not brandish a gun or threaten the employees in any way before fleeing with a white envelope full of an undetermined amount of cash, Streeter said.
The man, wearing a blue sweater and blue jeans and believed to be about 5-foot-8 with a thin build then hopped on the bicycle and headed south on South Main Street, Streeter said. He was still at large last night.
The employees triggered the bank’s alarm system. Streeter, riding in his cruiser about 2 miles away, then received a call from his wife of 34 years.
“Larry, we’ve just been robbed,” Cindy Streeter said.
Streeter said it was the first time in his 40 years in law enforcement he’s had to respond to a crime involving his wife. He said she held up well under the stress.
“I was nervous for her,” he said. “But she’s fine, she’s a trouper.”
As for him?
“You just keep your composure,” he said. “We’ve had three kids and we’ve seen it all.”
The bank robbery drew officers from the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, New Hampshire State Police and several New Hampshire police departments, including Kingston, East Kingston and Plaistow.
An officer on an all-terrain vehicle searched woods behind the bank. Several cruisers were parked on nearby streets as officers scoured the woods for the robber.
“Everybody is looking,” Newton police officer Michael Jewett said.
The bank closed its doors immediately for the day but was to reopen this morning. The drive-through was closed briefly, but reopened shortly after the robbery, Streeter said.
A bank manager refused to comment.
Newton Learning Center, a preschool behind the bank, went into lockdown. There were approximately 50 children at the center at the time, owner Katy Aveni said.
“We locked the doors and just kept the children calm,” she said. “The teachers just did what they are trained to do.”
Parents were notified of the incident by Facebook, but no one came to pick up children, Aveni said.
News of the robbery spread quickly through the small community.
“It’s the talk of the town,” said Jackie Pardini, a clerk at Route 108 General Store. “Everybody wants to know what’s going on.”
Neighbors who live near the bank said they didn’t see anything suspicious before the robbery nor did they see a bandit on a bike.