Police: NY man linked to Mass. bank robbery arrested, facing charges
According to Stockbridge Police Chief Robert M. Eaton Jr., the department will be charging Christopher G. Blair, 34, of 75 Upper Hollow Road in Hillsdale, N.Y., with robbery, assault and battery, and larceny over $250. Based on the Stockbridge Police Department's charges, New York State Police also charged Blair as a fugitive from justice.
According to initial reports, a second suspect was being sought, but Eaton said Blair is now the sole suspect in this case, which is still under investigation.
Blair was arraigned in Livingston Town Court at 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday before Judge Robert Moore. He is currently being held in Columbia County Jail without bail on the fugitive from justice charge. Investigators reportedly told CBS 6 news in Albany that Blair was allegedly desperate for money to feed his heroin addiction.
At about 4 p.m. on Monday, Stockbridge Police responded to a reported robber at the Lee Bank branch located at 3 Elm St. in Stockbridge. The suspect had fled prior to police arrival. No on was hurt during the incident, no weapon was shown and an undetermined amount of money was stolen. Lee Bank President David Bruce said he was "very grateful" none of the four employees working at the time were hurt during the late afternoon heist. "The branch staff handled themselves in an extraordinary manner," he said during an interview with the Eagle. "Thanks also to the police for the way they handled themselves."
Bruce wouldn't comment on how much money was taken due to the ongoing investigation. The Elm Street office of Lee Bank remains closed until further notice.
Based on eyewitness information gathered during the initial investigation, a description of the suspect and the suspect's vehicle -- a late model blue Chevy pickup with orange New York plates, a green truck cap and a missing rear window -- was broadcast to all surrounding police departments in Massachusetts and surrounding states shortly after the robbery.
Checkpoints were set up along numerous roads in South County, according to several sources.
Initially, the pickup headed south on Route 7 and reportedly turned on Ice Glen Road, which several onlookers thought was a bad move. Ice Glen Road turns into gravel and ends in a turnaround. A witness later reported seeing the suspected vehicle exit the road and continue south toward Great Barrington.
A few hours later, New York State Police from the Livingston barracks, Troop K, stopped a truck in Hillsdale matching the description of the getaway vehicle. Blair was then arrested by New York State Police and taken into custody.
In a collaborative effort, members of the Stockbridge police, Massachusetts State Police, and New York State Police are investigating this crime. Cassandra Sohn, owner of Sohn Fine Arts Gallery across the street, was shocked by the daytime heist.
"It's really frightening," she told The Eagle on Monday. "I feel so safe in Stockbridge. This is not some place you'd expect to see a bank robbery." A store owner who asked to remain anonymous said he never expected Lee Bank would be robbed. "The traffic on Elm Street, even on a slow day, is pretty heavy," he said. "The bank is right in the middle of that mini-mall."
None of the owners or managers of the stores adjacent to the bank, who were interviewed by The Eagle, reported seeing anything unusual prior to the robbery. The staff at Nejaime's Wine Cellar, next door to the bank, reported that a woman came into the store and called 911 at about 3:50 p.m. "That's how we heard about it," said one employee, Ryan Parker.
Police responded to the scene moments after the robbery. In the aftermath of the crime, there were Stockbridge and Lee police and state police cars and several officers in the parking lot in front of Lee Bank. The bank was closed, its shutters drawn, while some police were inside and another officer canvassed the stores along Elm Street for witnesses.
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