Back when I was working patrol for the New York Police Department, Sgt. Torre handed my partner and me a business index card to complete for a new bank on Queens Boulevard.
It was a weekday, so we drove by the new bank when we turned out. The bank was small with two sets of revolving doors instead of the doors you push open.
At 10 a.m. we put ourselves out of service over the radio while we entered the bank to get the necessary information for the business card index. We both went in because it was important for each of us to know the interior layout of the bank in case we got an emergency call there in the future.
I pushed the revolving door as I entered and my partner Frank, coming in after me, pushed it also. The door jammed.
We stood there looking foolish for a moment before we pushed again and the door operated. A middle-aged, balding man walked up to us and asked, “How can I help you officers?” We explained our mission and he identified himself as the branch manager.
“We have to get those doors fixed,” he said, pointing to the revolving door. “They’re jamming for some reason.”
The branch manager told us it was a small branch with five employees. He figured things inside would be fairly quiet except at the beginning and end of each month for paydays and Social Security. We filled out the card and left.
It wasn’t quiet at the branch for long. Minutes after we left, we were dispatched back to the bank to respond to an attempted robbery.
Four men wearing black wool caps and black leather gloves had rushed into the bank and gotten jammed in the revolving door. They panicked and once they got the revolving doors moving again they ran right back out of the bank into an old black Buick waiting at the curb. Burning rubber, they raced away eastbound on Queens Boulevard before anyone could get a plate number.
Funny thing was, no one had actually announced a holdup. The manager knew what had almost happened, but the customers we interviewed were clueless. They thought it was a high school prank or some sort of joke. We made our report via phone from the bank and resumed patrol.
Two hours later we received a call of a holdup in progress at the same bank. When we arrived, one of the bandits was lying on the floor in pain. His accomplices had fled without him before even taking a dollar.
The manager told us it was the same robbers with the same masks. Again, they got stuck in the revolving door. But this time they came in the bank. The customers were laughing until the masked men produced guns and demanded money. Then the joke was over.
Well, it was over until one of the tellers didn’t move fast enough for a shaking robber holding a paper grocery bag demanding it be filled with bills. The robber jumped up on the counter, promptly slipped off, and fell backward breaking his hip.
When the impatient robber hit the floor, his gun flew from his hand and his three accomplices realized that the caper had gone south. They turned and ran back out to their waiting getaway car.
The bank manager picked up the gun from the floor while the impatient robber cried out in pain unable to move. He held the robber at gunpoint until we arrived minutes later.
Everyone who responded was laughing when they heard the story. The robber was transported to Elmhurst Hospital where eventually the FBI came and took custody.
I was told later by a detective in our One-Ten Squad that the injured would-be bank robber sang like a bird to the FBI in exchange for a deal. I guess he was disappointed his gang left without him.
Jim McDevitt is retired from the New York Police Department and now writes a column for Texas Highway Patrol magazine.