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Bank robbery, suspicious devices investigated in Wellesley

Posted by Martin Finucane  March 26, 2009 06:35 PM

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A surveillance camera captured a photo of today's robbery.

By Milton Valencia, Globe Staff

A Bank of America branch in Wellesley was robbed at gunpoint Thursday afternoon, only minutes after a suspicious device was found at a nearby supermarket.

A second device was also left on the counter at the Bank of America branch, on Washington Street, where the robbery occurred.

The two devices were detonated without incident by State Police bomb squads, and no one was reported injured.

But the cautious response to the two suspicious devices, forcing the evacuation of some 70 people from Star Market and a nearby pharmacy, created a scare and disorder that is not usual in Wellesley, an affluent town where bank robberies are unusual.

Traffic built up while police cordoned off mains streets. Train service was delayed for at least a half hour. And the nearby Wellesley High School cleared its athletic fields and called students back into the building as precaution.

“It’s a very quiet little community here, but this is something else,” said Frank Ouellet, an 83-year-old who has worked at a real estate office overlooking Washington Street for decades.

He waited with dozens on the street, while authorities set up perimeters to inspect the device at the Bank of America. Meanwhile, dozens of other spectators were less than a half a mile up the street behind the Star Market, where police inspected the device there.

“This was terrifying,” said Joseph O’Connor, an 18-year-old who was working at the nearby pharmacy, Rite Aid, when police responded and the bomb squad arrived. He watched as the device was detonated by a robot. “It startled everyone in the crowd, and all these kids shrieked. The whole experience was like an episode of ‘24’.”

The Bank of America at 342 Washington St. was robbed just a little after 4 p.m., said FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz. Marcinkiewicz said suspicious devices were left both at the bank and at the Star Market, less than a mile down the street.

"It's a very quiet little community here, but this is something else. This is very unusual," said Frank Ouellet, who works at a local realty company with offices nearby.

Police Sgt. Marie Cleary, a Wellesley department spokeswoman, could not say last night if the devices found in Wellesley were similar. Officials said that they are still reviewing the possibility that the two incidents were related in what would be a diversion tactic, but have not made that determination.

Thursday's sequence of events led police to contact officials in Needham and Holbrook, where similar incidents have occurred. The FBI is also part of an investigation into the suspicious device found earlier this week in Needham.

In Wellesley, Star Market spokeswoman Judy Chong said, "Our store has been evacuated, and we are working with authorities with their investigation." She declined to comment any further.

A section of busy Route 16, a major artery through the town, was shut down.

Students practicing sports at Wellesley High School this afternoon were asked to go inside as three helicopters circled overhead, said freshman Liana Huber, 15.

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4 comments so far...
  1. WOW! SCARY! I used to work there 5 years ago. This was always my greatest fear.....

    Posted by Andrew March 26, 09 09:00 PM
  1. Hmmm. Was in the traffic delay on Route 9 wondering what caused the slowdown. Then, heard about the robbery from my relative in Pennsylvania an hour ago. Need the internet in my car, but relieved no one was hurt physically.

    Posted by carol March 26, 09 09:35 PM
  1. Drove by it today. It was very unuasual. Many many police cars. Glad to know no one was hurt!

    Posted by Claudia March 26, 09 10:12 PM
  1. I am concerned for the bank employees who are a small group of kind dedicated people. Is there any information on their welfare?

    Posted by CGM March 26, 09 10:47 PM