HARRISONBURG, Va. (WRIC) — A man plead guilty this week to armed robbery after he made off with $15,908 from a bank in Harrisonburg, using a BB gun to intimidate the tellers working there.
Charles Joseph Hood was initially hit with two charges – armed bank robbery and brandishing a firearm – but prosecutors dropped the second charge shortly after Hood entered a guilty plea. The judge also struck all mention of firearms from the first charge, instead leaving the BB gun to be characterized as a “dangerous weapon.”
Before Hood signed the plea agreement, his lawyer also moved to have some evidence, including bodycam footage and testimony from the officer who arrested Hood, because they claimed Hood’s arrest shortly after the robbery had been unconstitutional.
Breaking the Bank
According to a statement of facts, admitted by Hood as part of his plea agreement, Hood entered the First Citizens Bank in Harrisonburg on January 4 wearing a mask, sunglasses and wig, and approached a manager to ask about opening an account.
Once the manager took Hood to his office, Hood brandished his BB gun, which the victim believed to be a firearm, and ordered him to put on a glove and place cash into a bag he’d brought in with him.
The statement of facts says that Hood “did assault and put in jeopardy the life of another person by the use of a dangerous weapon,” although no such assault is described in the statement, and Hood has not been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
Once the manager, along with two tellers, had placed the $15,000 in cash in Hood’s bag, Hood fled the bank on his bike, which he had left just around the corner.
Unbeknownst to Hood, one of the tellers had already tripped the bank’s silent alarm.
A Change of Costume
Hood quickly rode to a nearby Firehouse Subs, dropping his wig, outer jacket and bike in a lot behind the restaurant. Then, Hood walked to a nearby Mediterranean restaurant, using the bathroom and stashing his BB gun behind a painting there.
He then walked to a nearby Walmart, buying new shoes and then attempting to call a taxi in the parking lot.
That’s where an officer, who had been called in as part of the Harrisonburg Police Department’s response to the silent alarm, noticed Hood.
The statement of facts claims that Hood matched the description of the suspect given to officers searching for the bank robber, while Hood’s lawyer said he was illegally stopped based only on his disheveled appearance and initial refusal to respond to police.
What both agree on is that Hood began running, eventually dodging his way through traffic on Route 33. Hood was eventually caught, and when officers patted him down, they found the bag with $15,000 in cash stuffed down his pant leg.
Although police were initially unable to find the gun used in the robbery – which turned out not to have been an actual firearm – Hood himself confessed to his cellmate in January. At the time, he told his cellmate that he’d hidden the weapon behind a painting in the bathroom of Firehouse Subs, evidently misremembering which restaurant he’d entered earlier that month.
Hood may now face up to 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, however, in light of his guilty plea, it’s likely he’ll receive a more lenient sentence.