The suspect who stole over $10,500 in the armed robbery of the Chase Bank branch in Chester Township last Tuesday was arrested and charged the…
The suspect who stole over $10,500 in the armed robbery of the Chase Bank branch in Chester Township last Tuesday was arrested and charged the next day thanks to the help of social media.
William Brejcha, 50, of 12068 Nikki Lane in Hambden Township, was taken into police custody Jan. 22 and charged with aggravated armed robbery, a first-degree felony, after a civilian’s tip lead Chester Township police to Brejcha’s home.
During a noon press conference last Thursday, Police Chief Mark Purchase said Brejcha — who was masked with a pullover stocking cap during the robbery around 2 p.m. last Tuesday — brandished a semi-automatic pistol to bank tellers at the branch in the West Geauga Plaza and stole $10,589.
He made his initial court appearance and bond hearing Friday in front of Chardon Municipal Court Judge Terri Stupica.
She mentioned the gun as she read out loud a summary of the events of that day and Brejcha inserted it was a “BB gun,” to which the judge asked him not to speak.
She set his bond at $500,000 or 10 percent. He is currently being held at the Geauga County Safety Center. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday morning. Brejcha’s case is expected to be bound over to the court of common pleas, where he will enter a plea once his case is heard.
Prior to the robbery, Purchase said during the press conference Brejcha had created a diversion.
“The initial call that the Chester Township Police Department had received was for a shooting that had happened out on Sandgate Drive. It was 1:50 p.m. on Tuesday when we responded to that shooting call. Upon our arrival, the dispatchers were learning the initial information … the validity of that call was being brought under question quickly.”
Purchase said around 1:57 p.m., police received a call that Chase Bank had just been robbed.
The homeowner at the Sandgate Drive address “had zero involvement” in the robbery, the chief said, adding diversions are familiar to both the police and Geauga County Sheriff’s Office.
“Subsequently, after a lot of man hours over the last day and a half here, first thing we did, and this is where media should be commended … we got preliminary information out to all of you very quickly,” Purchase said. “It was by the media getting that information out … that ultimately led to a very important tip to this investigation.”
Around 3 p.m., the investigation pointed police to Hambden Township and the sheriff’s office aided Chester police in getting a search warrant and arrest warrant, Purchase said.
“We were asked to assist the Chester Township Police Department. We set up surveillance at (Brejcha’s) residence,” Sheriff Dan McClelland said. “Approximately a half an hour into the surveillance, the targeted individual was observed (returning) to that residence. He remained there for another half an hour and at approximately 4:16 p.m. he did leave that residence. An apprehension team was located on Chardon Windsor Road. A felony traffic stop was initiated.”
McClelland explained a felony traffic stop is a potential high risk stop that involves several officers assisting.
“(Brejcha) was taken into custody without incident,” he said.
Purchase added in his initial interview, Brejcha declined to cooperate in the investigation and instead has invoked his right to speak to an attorney.
Purchase said $8,500 of the money stolen was recovered from Brejcha’s residence, however, the semi-automatic pistol has not been recovered yet.
“(Brejcha) has a prior extensive past criminal history. In 2004, he does have a prior arrest and conviction for bank robbery … in Pennsylvania.
“Additional information, although we are still working to confirm it, was that there were two bank robberies committed by him in 2004 in the same week and that those two may have been combined and he was subsequently charged in both of them at one time.”
Purchase said he believes Brejcha did not use a weapon in the prior robberies, but the fact he used one at Chase Bank made the crime “aggravated robbery.”
Around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, police wrapped up the search of Brejcha’s home, Purchase said, adding they will still be continuing the investigation to gather all the evidence and information they can to connect the dots.
Purchase said the bank tellers did “a tremendous job” and he stopped by Thursday morning to check on them and tell them of Brejcha’s arrest.
“They were obviously very glad to hear that. I think they’re doing very well,” he said.
McClelland said being on the other end of a robbery can be very traumatic.
“It’s terrifying. You’re very scared. It’s difficult to go to work the next day,” he said. “You watch the customers in the bank. You’re absolutely fearful that the very next person could be a robber. It’s traumatic, it’s scary. It also causes fear within the family. But there is a relief when the perpetrator is caught. It somewhat eliminates that fear of ‘He might be coming back. He might know where I live.’”
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