Visitor charged in Friday's bank robbery

Posted: Sunday, January 08, 2006

A 25-year-old Montana man was arrested Friday after allegedly trying to buy a plane ticket out of Juneau with money stolen from a downtown bank that afternoon.

Steven Conner of Missoula, Mont., was arrested on a charge of second-degree theft and stands accused in the robbery at First National Bank of Alaska, 238 Front St. Police lodged him at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Friday's robbery marked the second time the bank was robbed in less than three months.

Juneau Police received a call at approximately 3:48 p.m. Friday saying the bank had been robbed. At about 6:10 p.m., officers arrested Conner after they were contacted by Alaska Airlines regarding a man that matched a police description who had purchased an airline ticket with cash, police reported. Serial numbers on the money used to buy the plane ticket matched those provided by bank employees.

"We believe at this point the individual who committed the offense is in custody," Sgt. Steve Hernandez said.

On Saturday afternoon Conner remained in the state prison with his bail set at $25,000, according to the prison's booking office.

Hernandez said he couldn't say what evidence the police have collected, but he said they had enough evidence to arrest Conner for the crime. No weapons were used during the incident, police reported.

"He was cooperative during the arrest," Hernandez said.

Police Sgt. David Campbell said the suspect was seen entering the bank several times before the incident took place.

"When he came into the bank the last time he walked up to a teller and asked to have some change made," Campbell said. "When the teller's drawer came open, the man jumped over the counter, grabbed the money out of the till and then fled out the door." When the suspect left the bank he fled down Front Street toward Pocket Park, Campbell said.

"He just jumped over the counter, the girl screamed, he grabbed the money and run," said Jeanette Maharaj, who was inside the bank Friday afternoon.

Maharaj said the bank robbery was frightening.

"It is because you are in the bank and hear somebody scream and see somebody run, and you don't know if he has a gun or not," she said. "You're scared, that's all."

"One of the bank tellers screamed, but nobody was hurt," customer David Plotnick said.

"I don't think much money was taken."

"The amount of money that was taken at this point, we don't know," Campbell said. "It's undisclosed."

The same branch of First National Bank of Alaska was robbed Oct. 12 by Neil W. Haapala, who used a note that included his first name and "please" written on it. No weapon was displayed in that robbery either. Haapala pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve more than five years in prison.

Campbell said it is unusual to have two bank robberies in Juneau so close in time at the same location. Before October, no Juneau bank robbery had been reported since April 21, 2001, when the downtown branch of Alaska Pacific Bank was held up.

Plotnick said the recent robberies haven't changed his trust in his bank.

"I'll probably continue to do my banking here since I'm actually still pretty happy," he said. "The people at the bank were very good."

There was a heavy police presence canvassing downtown after the robbery Friday evening. Hernandez said making the arrest so quickly after the incident was due in part to the cooperation of the community.

"Not to pat our ourselves on the back, it was just good, down-home police work," he said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at

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