Man walks in on bank robbery, stops suspect with hug

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 2:44 AM CDT
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WOODLAND, Calif. (KCRA) - Police say a customer at a California bank convinced a would-be robber to walk away. He didn’t use a weapon or physical restraint to do it – just empathy.

Michael Armus Sr. found himself at the center of a bank robbery while making a deposit about 11 a.m. Monday at a Bank of the West location in Woodland.

“I believe it was meant for me to be here that day,” he said.

The bank is one where Armus knows all the tellers, but instead of greeting him with the usual smiles, this time, he was met with looks of concern.

“I’m always joking around, and it wasn’t no jokes yesterday,” he said.

Armus then noticed a man in the bank who had his face covered with his shirt. Police say that man, later identified as 43-year-old Eduardo Plasencia, had passed a note to one of the tellers, claiming he had a gun, and was robbing the place.

“I seen that the way he was talking, he was getting irritated. He said, ‘I don’t want to hurt anybody,’” Armus said.

But Armus said he also saw something else in Plasencia that made him approach.

“He seemed to be depressed the way he was talking, so… I said, ‘What’s wrong? You don’t have a job?’ He said, ‘There’s nothing in this town for me. I just want to go to prison,’” Armus said.

Armus says he tried to comfort Plasencia and asked if they could step outside.

“So, I took him outside, and I give the man a hug right here at the doors. He started crying,” Armus said. “Then, I stepped away from him, and swoop, here come all the cops – no sirens, just lights everywhere, rifles out, ‘Get on the ground!’”

Video from a bystander shows police clearing out the bank.

“The ladies were all worried. The one teller was saying, ‘No, no, not the one in the black shirt,’” Armus said.

Police arrested Plasencia for attempted robbery. They say he was not armed like he had claimed.

Armus says he’s thinking of visiting Plasencia in jail, adding that he recognized the man as a friend of his daughter from decades ago.

“Love overcomes all things. People don’t realize that. Try to be kind to somebody. It makes a difference,” he said.