Thanks to the quick thinking and bravery of a young bank teller, police were able to apprehend a slippery bank robber who had already robbed 19 banks. However,instead of being praised for his deeds, the young man has wound up jobless.
Back on July 22nd, Steven Gomez ( 21) was working at the Bank of America branch in Union, N,J. A man, his features hidden by a hat, walked up to the teller’s window and held up a sign demanding money. It was the ‘Hat Bandit’, known for wearing a variety of hats while holding up 19 New Jersey banks over the past year. Following established procedures, Gomez complied and handed over the money. The Hat Bandit left the bank but Gomez acting on instinct followed him out, after first stripping off his maroon Bank of America dress shirt. In his undershirt, Gomez saw the man climb into a black Nissan Altima and drive away. Gomez alertly made a note of the robber’s license plate number and turned it over to the police. As a result, police were able, two days later, to arrest James Madison (50), a paroled killer, who has since been convicted and is awaiting sentencing.
For his actions, young Gomez was lauded by law enforcement officials. A sheriff even called him ” a beacon for everyone to look up to.” The bank’s officials were less thrilled. His bosses chided him ” You should not have followed him “.When admiring customers chatted with him, he was given a scolding. Gomez says he was told that if he accepted the $ 10, 000 reward for the Hat Bandit’s capture in any kind of public way, he would be out of a job. He could accept the reward secretly but he was forbidden to discuss his role in the case with anyone.
Unhappy with the Bank’s treatment of him, Gomez who had a year on the job, quit two weeks ago and accepted the reward at a public ceremony. So, the net result is that a man who showed initiative and daring that led to the apprehension of a notorious bank robber is now without a job.
Citing privacy issues, a Bank of America spokeswoman declined to discuss the issue. A banking industry expert said that it makes sense for tellers to stay put during a heist, noting the danger to customers and other employees.
Quite understandable, but I fail to see how Steven Gomez’s actions endangered anyone. He stripped off his distinctive shirt, waited until the robber was out the bank and did not confront him. He stayed out of sight of the robber while he noted down the license plate number. It would have been quite different if he had tried to take down the robber physically – then he would have been risking injury to himself or to bystanders. But I suppose such distinctions are beyond the understanding of corporate bigwigs. As a result, Steven Gomez is $10, 000 richer but back to being a full time student, a junior studying business and finance at nearby Rutgers University.