Suffolk Police used a robot Monday to blow up a fake explosive device that a robber used to steal thousands of dollars from a West Babylon bank.
Police responded to the Chase Bank branch at 733 Sunrise Hwy. at about 9:45 a.m., after the robber had left the bank. About 45 minutes later, police discovered the device behind a cafe in the shopping center and the robot was brought in.
Suffolk Police Sgt. Pete Scheuer said the robber, who was caught on security camera video, entered the bank and told the branch manager he had a bomb. After getting about $33,000, he left through the rear and ran toward the east side of the strip mall, leaving the device behind and eluding police, Scheuer said.
Police evacuated seven storefronts near the bank. Officers from the Emergency Services Section first attempted to detonate the package shortly before 1 p.m., but the explosive misfired, according to Scheuer. It was finally "rendered safe" at 1:18 p.m. with a small explosive charge from the robot.
Tom Waters, 54, of Mineola, an owner of Cardinal Bakery in the strip mall, said he told police he saw a gray-haired man in his 50s wearing jeans, sneakers and a black pinstriped blazer, enter the bank with the package and leave minutes later.
"I saw the guy, but I didn't put two-and-two together until I heard the bank was robbed," Waters said. He said he gave police surveillance video from his business showing the robber.
The device was made from four PVC pipes taped together, with wires protruding from the pipes, said Katie Szczesny, 20, of Oakdale, who works at Cafe Gio. The device was found in the rear of the cafe.
"I saw it on my way into work at Cafe Gio," she said. "I just thought, 'It's a bomb.' "
An ambulance and an engine from the North Babylon Fire Department were on the scene as a precaution, said third Assistant Chief Rob Cabano. Suffolk Police had assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
With Gary Dymski