TUMWATER, Thurston County — Employees at a Tumwater bank treated a customer from Tenino like a bank robber last week, tripping an alarm that resulted in police officers drawing guns and handcuffing him after he left the branch of Timberland Bank.
“I thought they were going to shoot me,” 59-year-old Thomas Budsberg said of his ordeal on the afternoon of Sept. 16.
Budsberg and a companion were released by police after they realized he had not robbed the bank and was not a bank-robbery suspect, The Olympian reported Thursday.
Timberland Bank CEO Michael Sand said he believes employees did nothing wrong during the encounter. Sand said employees at the bank were on alert for Budsberg because he had come into the bank in August, taken some brochures and left.
This was considered “odd” behavior on Budsberg’s part, Sand said. Sand said the branch on Trosper Road has been robbed before. “We want to protect our people,” he said.
Bank employees subsequently looked through CrimeStoppers photos of recent bank-robbery suspects and believed that Budsberg resembled one of them, Sand said.
When Budsberg came to the bank on Sept. 16, he was not allowed inside. Instead, an employee kept the door locked so that he remained in the vestibule, according to a police report. A teller asked for Budsberg’s identification and wrote his information down. Then Budsberg left.
According to a Tumwater police report, the teller hit a holdup alarm button and called 911. Sand said the alarm had already been tripped as soon as Budsberg entered the bank’s vestibule.
Budsberg said he and a friend were pulled over in a nearby gas station by several police cars after exiting the bank around 1:30 p.m. Budsberg said he and his friend had guns pointed at them, and they were handcuffed and detained for more than an hour.
Jay Mason of the Tumwater police said bank alarms should be tripped only if there is a bank robbery or an employee believes a robbery is imminent. Sand disagreed with Mason’s assessment and said bank alarm buttons can be pressed in other circumstances.