Employee Thought Man Helping Friend Was Robbing Bank in Chester

A New Haven man who was trying to help his friend at a bank in Chester was briefly put in handcuffs when police thought that he was trying to rob the place.

Luis Valentin said he and a friend had stopped at the First Niagara Bank in Chester. He said his friend, who is disabled, needed help to withdraw money.

"Get the deposit slip, fill out the paperwork. We go back out to go through the drive-through because they need to see him, picture ID--whatever. Next thing I know I have two troopers, one at gunpoint, and they throw me on the ground," said Valentin. "I was freaking out. My heart dropped. I thought I was going to get shot."

Valentin explained what was going on to police who were concerned a possible attempted robbery had been reported here.

Valentin thinks an overly cautious clerk was spooked by him wearing a hoodie at one point and was worried he might have been writing a demand note.

Police explained staff at the bank might have reason to be nervous.

Just about three weeks ago, police said Dylan Moore robbed the First Niagara Bank in Chester. A couple of days later police said the First Niagara Bank not far away in Essex was robbed by Travis Gahran.

As for Valentin, he was quickly let go, though a little sore.

While he might not be coming back to this branch, he was able to laugh off the brief mistaken identity.

"Small price to pay for protection, I guess," said Valentin.

In a statement to NBC Connecticut, First Niagara wrote that the staff, in abundance of caution, contacted police after someone came in, did not make contact with anyone, and then quickly left.

The bank said the staff is more cautious because at the same branch on a Monday a man wearing a hoodie tried to get in after hours. The bank said that man is believed by state police to have been involved in a robbery at another bank that day and is still on the loose.

It applauded the bank manager who it said was “following protocol” and made sure that “customer and employee safety is top priority.”

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