Accidental accomplice drove bank robbery suspect

A Jackson County Mental Health caseworker became an unwitting accomplice in a bank robbery Tuesday when a client he was taking on errands held up a Chase Bank branch while the caseworker waited in the car.

Medford police say the caseworker was helping Nicholas York, 35, run errands when the pair pulled up to the bank on Crater Lake Avenue.

York hopped out of the car, which had the Jackson County emblem pasted on the door, and entered the bank. The caseworker remained in the car, unaware what his client was doing in the bank, Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said.

"The mental-health worker had no clue what was happening," Budreau said.

Upon entering the bank, York began acting erratically, witnesses told police.

"He was very aggressive and demanding," Budreau said. "At some point he mentioned the bank vault to a teller and she knew that a robbery was occurring."

York allegedly demanded money and left the bank with a "good amount" of cash, Budreau said.

"He got back in the car like nothing happened," Budreau said. "The mental health worker did not suspect anything was up."

The caseworker then drove York back to the Cedar Lodge Inn on North Riverside Avenue. York moved to Medford earlier this month and the caseworker had helped him get a room at the motel, Budreau said.

Little did he know that two witnesses had watched the county car drive away from the bank. They wrote the license plate number down and phoned police with the information, Budreau said.

"At first, I thought someone had stolen a county car and committed a bank robbery," Budreau said. "But the witnesses said the car left the parking lot at a low, normal speed, which is unlike what you'd normally see from a getaway driver."

Investigators determined who was driving the government car and contacted the caseworker, who told them he had just left the bank with York.

"We arrived at the Cedar Lodge and made contact with York," Budreau said. "We ordered him to leave the room, and he was taken into custody without incident."

When York exited the room, he was wearing a red bandana that matched the headwear of the bank-robbery suspect, Budreau said.

Investigators then searched the room and found money from the robbery, Budreau said.

York was arrested on a charge of second-degree robbery and a drug warrant from Clackamas County. He was lodged in the Jackson County Jail on more than $2 million bail.

York suffers from mental illness and had sought out county services recently, Budreau said.

"His mental illness was not so bad that he could not tell the difference between right and wrong," Budreau said. "He functions well living on his own and has done so for some time."

— Chris Conrad

Read more in Wednesday's Mail Tribune.

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