By Karen Cornelius
After a robbery suspect was arrested by Vermilion Police on Monday afternoon, April 16, he commented he was just joking around. However, the entire incident was no joke to Huntington Bank personnel who feared for their lives and to the officers who responded to a suspect that could have been dangerous.
According to Vermilion Police Department reports, dispatcher Katie Kopriva was advised of a robbery that had just occurred at the local branch of the Huntington Bank, 4530 Liberty Avenue. Dispatch gave a description of the suspect, older male, 5’11”, wearing a black Carhart coat and balding hair. The suspect was reported to have left the bank riding a bicycle. Talking about being in the right place at the right time, patrolman Sean Bailey radioed that he had seen a person riding a bike that matched the general description just a few moments earlier in the area of South Shore Plaza where he was patrolling. Bailey then reported the suspect was in front of Dollar General. Sergeant Gordon Adams and sergeant/detective Stephen Davis approached the area in another squad car. The male was talking to an employee of Dollar General outside. They made contact with the male and asked him to walk over to the car, and he complied with the order. He was asked about a robbery at the bank. Detective Davis stated that the male said he had been at the bank, but there was no robbery. He did make a comment that he had been joking with someone at the bank.
At that point, the male was taken into custody, searched, and placed in the patrol car. During the search paperwork was located that identified the male as Michael Barrett, 65, a resident living on Delamere Road, Vermilion. Davis also asked the Dollar General employee, Gerri Adams, if she knew him. She responded that she had gone outside for a smoke break and he had just ridden up to her prior to their arrival and asked for 75 cents to purchase cigarettes and asked to borrow two cigarettes. She gave him the cigarettes, but did not know him. He gave her a Huntington Bank pen and a lighter. She said that the male saw the police cars and told her to go inside that it could get nasty outside.
Sergeant Adams and patrolman Bailey then went to Huntington Bank to meet with the employees and get statements from them. The report continued that when Barrett was secured, sergeant Davis decided to conduct a field identification of him with the employees at the bank. Due to them being locked inside, he had Barrett remain in the police car while he rolled down the rear window and had the employees look out their window to see if they could identify this male. They were all 100 percent sure it was him.
Davis recalled in his report that during the ride to the police station, Barrett made several statements such as “Walking into the bank and joking with her don’t make me no robber.” As well as, “I went in there to get my cards switched over, but then I talked to her and that was it. Nothing happened.”
Patrolman Bailey was at the bank and told Davis that Barrett allegedly walked into the bank and approached one of the employees and demanded money or he would kill her. He then ordered the employee to walk him to the vault, but no money was obtained due to talk and confusion which eventually caused Barrett to leave.
Barrett was given his Miranda Warnings at the station, and questioning was terminated when he asked for a lawyer. The suspect began to get loud and began to kick a table in the booking room according to the report. He was then transported to the Lorain County Jail with a commitment pending examination for robbery. An affidavit for Robbery (F2) was completed and will be forwarded to the prosecutor for review. It was also confirmed that Barrett had been arrested the day before for theft, disorderly conduct/intoxication during an unrelated incident. Davis also contacted the Cleveland FBI and advised of the incident. He was further told along with the bank personnel there were two other citizens who happened to be in the bank. Both were called. One citizen, Cliff Parsons, was not aware that any incident had taken place. He just saw the male asking for directions and calmly leaving.
Another report by patrolman Bailey told what allegedly happened from the time Barrett walked into the bank to the time he left the bank. He spoke with Katherine Harwood who is the Relationship Banker of the branch. She stated that she had just sat down at her office after her lunch and a guy walked in, stood by the entrance, staring into the lobby. She greeted him, and he approached her desk and stood over her with his hand in his jacket. He stated that he needed all the money in the vault. She told him that the tellers would be able to help him with getting cash by filling out a withdrawal ticket. He then allegedly told her, “I want all your f— money now and don’t you dare touch any buttons right there. Follow my instructions.” She advised him that they just shipped out most of the money and there wasn’t much left. He said he would be the judge and told her to take him to the vault. She said she stood up and he wiggled his hand that was inside his jacket. She told patrolman Bailey she was thinking he could have a gun or knife and she was scared.
Another employee, Kimberly Schaefer, saw them walking to the vault where customers normally don’t go back there. Harwood was able to tell Schaefer in speaking and using the bank’s code for they are being robbed. Other bank security processes were put in place with Harwood giving Barrett excuses on why she could not help him. The report stated that he came very close to her and whispered into her ear, “I’m not going to kill you today, Katie, I just want money today.” He then hugged her and walked back out to the front and approached another teller, Elizabeth Brummitt, and asked her where the “cop shop” was. She gave him directions to the police station, but he became angry. He then shook Brummitt’s hand asked her to check on Harwood, and left the bank.
The officer then said a representative from Huntington’s corporate security field operations, a specialist, arrived at the bank to obtain the bank’s video surveillance. He later provided the police with pictures and video which show Barrett inside Huntington and matched it all with the employees’ statements. The bank remained closed for the rest of the day as everyone was quite shaken up.
The police also provided Harwood with information on Marcey’s Law and was provided with a state notification card. The new state law is for victims of crimes. Harwood had stated that she was scared for her life thinking the suspect could stab or shoot her,