Bank Teller Fired For Catching Robber

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Jim Nicholson, a bank teller in Seattle, heroically chased and subdued a man who tried to rob his bank last Tuesday.  On Thursday his employer, Key Bank, somewhat less heroically fired him.

Nicholson was working when a man in sunglasses and, most suspiciously, a knit cap, came up to his window, pushed a backpack at him and demanded money.  Bank policy: hand over money.  Nicholson policy: demand to see a weapon, and if none is produced, chase robber out the door and down the street for several blocks before knocking him down and sitting on him until police arrive.

Nicholson said he was already uneasy when he saw the knit cap, apparently not that common in late July even in Seattle.  When the cap and its occupant approached the counter, therefore, he was ready for trouble.  "This is a ransom," the man said, oddly.  "Fill the bag with money."  As it was not, in fact, a "ransom," Nicholson suspected that the purported ransomer might not be entirely sure what he was doing.  He asked to see the man's gun, if he had one.  "It's a verbal ransom," the man replied.  Aha, it's one of those.

Wherever he got the phrase "verbal ransom," it pretty clearly translates to "unarmed robbery," and that translated in this case to being "physically subdued."

While Nicholson's actions foiled a criminal, Key Bank representatives said they also violated the bank's strict policy requiring employees to comply with robbers' demands rather than risking their lives over money that, as the Seattle Times pointed out, is federally insured anyway.  This is also the advice given by police and the FBI, who said they emphasize being "good witnesses" rather than confronting robbers (let alone chasing them).  Nicholson, who has worked for the bank for two years, said he was aware of the policy but said he had acted on "instinct."

He admitted, though, that this was not the first time he had run down a criminal, saying he had chased shoplifters at two prior retail jobs.  "It's something I almost look forward to," he said.  "It's a thrill and I'm an adrenaline-junkie person.  It's the pursuit."  He said he had mentioned this to a Seattle police officer, who suggested that he might want to go ahead and become a cop.  That way he can get paid, instead of fired, for chasing people.

Link: Seattle Times