An unarmed man walked into a Solana Beach Wells Fargo on Thursday morning, ordered everyone to the ground while announcing his intention to rob the bank and then stripped to his underwear and sat in a chair to await his arrest, sheriff’s officials and a witness said.
The incident happened just minutes after the 9 a.m. opening of the Wells Fargo branch on the corner of Lomas Santa Fe Drive and Santa Helena, just off Interstate 5 in the San Diego County community, according to Sgt. Brett Garrett of the sheriff’s north coastal substation.
During the ordeal, the man also asked bank employees to report the robbery to law enforcement, Garrett said.
Solana Beach resident Derek Stevenson said he was one of three customers inside the bank, along with a man and woman who appeared to be together.
“He shouted, ‘This is a robbery, everybody get on the ground!’ ” Stevenson recalled in a phone interview. “We all kind of froze and looked around, like, is this for real? But he repeated it aggressively.”
As Stevenson and the other man got down on their knees, the suspect began to take off his shirt and told the woman she could sit in a chair instead of getting on the floor, Stevenson said.
After directing employees to call law enforcement, the man also kicked off his shoes and stripped down to his underwear, Stevenson said. He then sat in a chair near the front door.
A deputy who was in the area arrived quickly, Garrett said. After assessing the situation, three deputies entered the bank and confronted the suspect, who surrendered without resistance.
The entire ordeal lasted about five to seven minutes, Stevenson estimated.
“We were all just quiet, while he sat down ... like he was waiting for police to arrive,” Stevenson said. “It was scary … I still have a little adrenaline pumping several hours later.”
“The bank did not incur any loss,” Garrett said in a statement. “He was not armed, and there were no injuries as a result of this incident.”
Deputies arrested the 35-year-old man on suspicion of attempted robbery, Garrett said. He was later booked into the Vista Detention Facility, where he was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Although the suspect never pulled out a weapon and appeared to lack the actual motivation to rob the bank, “there was an initial fear that this guy was for real,” according to Garrett.
“They thought it was a takeover-style robbery,” the sergeant said.