A Jackson County Mental Health caseworker became an unwitting accomplice in a bank robbery Tuesday when the 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 some 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, not aware that his client intended to commit a robbery, 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, according to witnesses.
"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 on North Riverside Avenue. The caseworker had recently helped York get a room at the lodge after he moved to Medford earlier this month, 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 ran the plates and soon 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."
Tuesday's bank robbery was the second this month in that area of Crater Lake Avenue. The Bank of America branch across the street was robbed June 5 by a woman who remains on the lam.
Amy Cook, 39, is wanted for questioning in that robbery. Crime Stoppers will pay a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest in that case.
"So we still have one outstanding bank robber on the loose, but we were glad to get York today," Budreau said. "It's always nice to get these things solved quickly."
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org.