Johnstown police have arrested a 13-year-old girl who they say walked into a Johnstown bank, composed two holdup notes on paper she borrowed from a teller, and then, unhappy with either version, tossed the notes in the trash and verbally ordered the teller to hand over money.
The girl was caught on surveillance cameras and seen by witnesses throwing some of her clothing into a trash bin, police said. She was picked up Tuesday at a relative's house in the Hornerstown neighborhood not long after the noontime robbery at the First National Bank in the Moxham section of Johnstown.
Johnstown Police Chief Craig Foust said the suspect entered the bank alone, approached the teller counter and asked for a piece of paper. She then retreated to a customer table, where she was seen scribbling out a note.
Evidently unsatisfied with the phrasing of the first note, the suspect returned to the teller and requested another piece of paper, said Sgt. Andrew Litvin. The girl then walked back to the customer table and wrote out another demand for money, he said.
"She didn't like the way it sounded," Sgt. Litvin said. "She changed the wording a little bit. She was practicing up what to say."
In the end, the girl discarded both notes and directly addressed the teller, demanding money and giving a time limit for the teller to comply. The notes, neither of which made reference to a weapon, were later found by police and logged as evidence, Sgt. Litvin said.
After the teller handed over an undisclosed amount of money, the girl fled on foot. Because the money hadn't been recovered yesterday afternoon, investigators say they have not ruled out that she had an accomplice.
The suspect left behind a trail of other evidence. People toward the rear of the bank showed investigators the Dumpster where they saw the girl throwing articles of clothing and other items, Chief Foust said.
Police examined the bank's video surveillance footage and collected bank employees' and witnesses' descriptions of the suspect. She also was captured on surveillance video inside and outside a nearby convenience store.
Bank employees originally described the suspected robber as male, said Chief Foust, because she was wearing a baseball cap, jeans and baggy clothing.
"Looking at the surveillance tapes, you can definitely see how the tellers, going through the stress of a robbery, would have thought she was a boy," he said.
The bank has been robbed four times in the past five years.
The suspect, whose name was not released, will be charged as a juvenile and held at the Cambria County Juvenile Detention Home.
"This is a 13-year-old kid who made a poor life choice," the chief said. "She made a stupid mistake. We have a juvenile justice system based on rehabilitation, and hopefully she'll be able to get the guidance and the help she needs to get back on track."