Police say robber tried, failed to rob two banks three blocks apart

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of one of the banks involved. The Bank of America branch that was targeted April 1, is in the 900 block of K St. NW. This version has been corrected.

April 6, 2013

The words on his robbery note were spelled incorrectly, authorities said, and he was unable to articulate his demands. So the confused teller at the downtown Washington bank turned the man away, saying she couldn’t help.

The FBI says the man didn’t fare much better at a second bank three blocks away. There, authorities said, it took the teller a few moments to realize that the man standing at her window April 1 was not a customer.

“Oh my God, are we getting robbed?” the teller said, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. She alerted security and the man fled. D.C. police said officers quickly arrested a 20-year-old suspect a block away.

Maurice Fearwell of Northeast was charged with two counts of attempted bank robbery — the first at 11:25 a.m. at the SunTrust Bank in the 1200 block of K Street, the second at 11:42 a.m. at the Bank of America in the 900 block of K Street.

Authorities say that most bank robbers use notes, not guns, but the wording must be clear to be understood. Court documents say the note handed over at the SunTrust simply read, “100s 50s 20s 10s.”

“The teller was confused,” the FBI agent wrote in the affidavit, noting that the teller understood the man to say “money” but nothing else. She handed the note back, and the FBI says he wrote, “all mona.” The teller sent him away. It was only after he left, authorities said, that a customer who was in earshot told her that the man was trying to rob the bank.

The teller at the Bank of America seemed to understand what was happening a bit quicker, although the FBI said she, too, was at first confused by the note reading “all mona.”

But when the man said he wanted “what’s on that,” referring to the note, she understood and alerted security.

Police said the man got no money from either bank.

At a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court, a federal magistrate judge ordered the suspect held and to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. His next hearing is scheduled for Monday.

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