Police nab boy, 16, within minutes of robbery at Orange Grove Banco Popular

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ST. CROIX - V.I. Police said a 16-year-old boy robbed the Banco Popular in Orange Grove on Friday morning, making off with an undisclosed amount of cash, only to be captured within 10 minutes and less than a mile away.

V.I. Police spokeswoman Melody Rames said police responded to a call of a bank robbery in progress about 11:21 a.m. Friday.

She said a lone individual walked into the Banco Popular branch in the Orange Grove Shopping Center and gave the teller a note. The teller handed over an undisclosed amount of cash to the robber, who then walked out of the bank with at least one bag of money.

Rames said the robber then fled the area and practically ran right into the hands of police officers.

Rames said according to reports from the officers, the robber, who police later identified as a 16-year-old boy, did not display any weapons during the robbery, and no one was injured inside the bank.

Once outside the bank, the boy ran toward Pueblo Supermarket and the Golden Rock Shopping Center to the south, crossed the street and ran east into the John F. Kennedy housing community, according to Rames.

Once the robbery was broadcast on the police radios, officers responded and saturated the area and immediately were able to apprehend the suspect.

Rames said the boy was easily observed as he ran, because he was seen running with his hands and clothing stained with the ink pack that had been placed inside the money bag and exploded as he made his getaway. He also had money in his possession that was stained with dye, and the note that police said was handed to the teller at the bank was also found on his person, she said.

Dozens of police officers raced to the scene in marked and unmarked police units with lights and sirens flashing just after the robbery, and when the call of the arrest was reported, police were seen racing to provide assistance to the arresting officer in the nearby housing community.

Other officers scoured the area between the two shopping centers where the robber had ran following the robbery. According to police, he left the bank, ran through the parking lot just south of the bank, jumped off a short wall and then down the driveway and onto the street. A large wad of money - splattered with the red dye from the bank - was dropped on the roadway between the shopping centers.

Because Friday was payday for many of the bank's customers, dozens of them walked up to the bank and pulled on the door, not realizing what had transpired just minutes before their arrival, only to find the bank door locked.

Many walked away, while others opted to use the bank's automated teller machine to make deposits and take withdrawals within the first 30 minutes following the robbery.

Later police blocked off the area with police crime-scene tape, restricting access to the bank and the machine. An ambulance was parked outside as a precautionary measure in the event any of the customers or bank employees who witnessed the robbery needed medical assistance.

When the boy was taken into custody he was processed and then remanded to the Youth Rehabilitation Center pending his appearance in the Family Division of V.I. Superior Court next week, Rames said.

As a matter of public policy in the territory, the names of minors charged with crimes are not made public unless a determination is made that they will be bounded over from juvenile court to face charges as an adult.

St. Croix Police Chief James Parris, who was on the scene within minutes of the robbery, applauded the officers who responded and thanked the residents of the nearby areas for their continuing support of the police department and for staying calm while officers were canvassing the area.

According to Rames, police have not yet ruled out that the boy was not working in concert with other individuals as the investigation continues. Anyone who may know more about the robbery can contact police at 911 or by calling the confidential tip line at Crime Stoppers USVI at 1-800-222-8477.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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