Metro-East News

Job-seeker was arrested in wake of Belleville bank robbery

A man went to a downtown Belleville eatery in search of a job — but instead found himself in handcuffs.

According to Mark Onstott, owner of Tavern on Main at East Main and North Church streets, a friend of one of his sous chefs came to the restaurant during the May 27 lunch rush to ask for an application.

“My sous chef told him to come back later because it was a bad time for us,” Onstott said.

So the man left the restaurant, saying he’d be back later.

At about the same time, the Regions Bank a block away at South Church and East Washington streets was being held up.

Belleville Police Department spokesman Sgt. Mark Heffernan said the bank was robbed at 1:08 p.m. The job candidate was spotted by police 17 minutes later, walking a block and a half from the bank.

“The basic description provided initially from the witnesses was the suspect in the robbery was a black male, in his 20s, wearing a black shirt with some sort of gray or white on the shirt, and black pants,” Heffernan said. “Police did not initially have access to surveillance images.”

“At 1:25 p.m., a Belleville police officer observed the person interviewed walking in the first block of North Church,” Heffernan said. “The officer observed the subject was wearing similar clothing as described via police radio.”

The officer observed the subject was wearing similar clothing as described via police radio.

Belleville Police Sgt. Mark Heffernan

While the officer made a U-turn to take another look at the subject, the man took off the shirt he was wearing, according to Heffernan.

“The officer observed the person interviewed walk into the Office Lounge,” Heffernan said. “The officer made contact with the person interviewed sitting at the bar at the Office Lounge. The officer placed his hand on the subject’s back and observed him to be perspiring heavily. The subject was asked to step outside of the bar.”

Police placed the man in handcuffs and checked him for warrants as he was transported to the bank. At the bank, workers were asked if the man was the robber.

Bank workers concluded the man was not the robber. But police learned that he had an active warrant for failure to appear in court on a MetroLink violation. The man, whose identity was not released, was told to take care of his MetroLink case as soon as possible and was released.

Onstott said Tavern on Main management was unaware, until later, that the prospective employee was questioned by police. He said the eatery doesn’t currently have an opening in its kitchen but that the incident wouldn’t affect any future hiring decisions involving the job candidate.

Police later arrested William Grier, 47, of Belleville, and charged him with a Class 1 felony count of financial institution robbery.