Woman tries First Friday bank heist

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

June 7, 2006

An alleged robber apparently didn’t take time to survey the surroundings at the corner of Second and Oak streets before stepping into the Bank of America Friday afternoon.

Police arrested Candace Lee Pallotta, 57, of Ridgefield, Wash., on the charge of robbery in the first degree upon her exit from the branch at 115 Oak Ave. in Hood River.

“It sounds bad, but we were almost laughing — who would be dumb enough to rob the bank right next to the police station on a First Friday?” said Craig Cleary, who was working at Discover Bicycles directly across the street at the time of the incident.

He said the woman appeared to be 5’ 6” to 5’ 7” in height and described her disguise as “ludicrous.”

“We couldn’t tell at first if it was a man or woman from the way she was dressed,” he said. “And you could tell it wasn’t a real baby at all … it was way too small.”

Police chief Bruce Ludwig said the department received the report of a robbery in progress at 5:30 p.m. He said the two officers assigned to foot beat for the monthly First Friday event took up positions first outside the bank branch.

Pallotta wore a burgundy-red wig, sunglasses, and carried a doll bundled in blankets, which Ludwig said was part of her disguise of being a mother.

“While she was still inside the bank she passed a demand via note,” Ludwig said. “Fortunately there were no weapons involved (by Pallotta) because there were a lot of people there.”

Police had drawn their weapons at the scene. Ludwig said Pallotta exited right into law enforcement and was in custody within five minutes. Ten police total, half from the city and the other half from the county, responded to the robbery. Pallotta is currently lodged at NORCOR.

The police chief could not release the amount of money Pallotta allegedly demanded. He said while there were no injuries during the robbery, counselors from the county’s trauma team were made available for those inside the bank at the time of the incident. That included five bank employees and three customers.

Eyewitnesses to the incident said the woman appeared to play dumb or be under the influence of some substance.

“She looked out of it,” said Todd Jensen, who was standing 20 feet away across the street.

Cleary said he saw the woman pretend she didn’t know what the cops were talking about.

“She acted like ‘What? Who?’” Cleary said. “She came out and didn’t respond; tried to play dumb to the cop.”

David Weiss and Sarah Wagner stayed late that night at the Gorge Ecology Institute because of the First Friday event.

“I went to open the door and a cop was there. I jokingly invited him in to make bird masks when he told us to stay inside and close the blinds,” Weiss said.

He said the entire incident lasted 10 to 15 minutes.

Ludwig said anyone with more information about the robbery should contact Detective Stan Baker at 386-3942.

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